The First of 50,000 Steps

Dear Teachers,
In my last post I wrote a little about the 50,000 foot plan for digital skills to be addressed better in the curriculum, and for kids to have a hand in that process by becoming content creators.

Earlier this week I met with elementary curriculum writers to take the first step in getting that plan to come into being. I’ve been working with our district’s wonderful Elementary Science coordinator to get digital literacy skills embedded into the curriculum. In my experience, these digital skills are learned haphazardly, if at all, for a number of reasons, and my goal is to take some steps to address that problem by getting some of these basic technology skills listed in the online planner that teachers use every day. Some days, no digital skills will be needed; other days and activities are ripe for a “just in time” delivery of a quick reminder about how to cite a source, or how to open or close a single tab, or how to use the shift key to make a capital letter. I talked to five out of six of the elementary grade levels, and I’ll meet with the final grade next Tuesday to discuss the plan that I jokingly refer to as “my plot to take over the world.”

I have to say, it was very gratifying and affirming to hear these teachers’ comments. To a person, they all enthusiastically agreed with my anecdotal observations that teachers either don’t have the time to teach these skills, or just don’t know them in the first place, or some combination thereof. They seemed to love the idea of having quick mini-lessons on digital skills within the context of lessons that they would be doing anyway, and they also affirmed my observations that these lessons need to be in context and not “in some other part of the planner” – because then teachers would just not do them.

What would you add to this image? What kinds of statements would kids at your grade level understand, and how would you convey to them the importance of digital literacy and digital citizenship?

There was agreement that a vertical alignment of skills would be great, and that some conversation is warranted about what each grade level would want to see from an incoming class as far as digital skills. For example, Fifth grade teachers might want their students to possess some basic information literacy skills like not just copying and pasting online information, whereas First grade teachers’ goals might include having their students to be able to log in to a computer independently. We want to take steps to build this vertical alignment so that these basic technical tasks are addressed in a more purposeful way.

Finally, all agreed that having students create content is a great idea. I even had a couple of the teachers suggest that they would be contacting their past year’s students’ parents about getting the kids to start making some videos. I still love the idea of having kids across our district learning from each other, whether it’s a fourth grader learning from someone in high school how to create a pivot table in Excel to a new fifth grade ELL learning from a first grader how to search for information more efficiently.

Now, in addition to all that good energy, I had to do a literature review of my selected project topic for that “Disruptive Innovation in Education” class I’m taking. I found it very challenging to synopsize all that information, but as one of my new Twitter friends told me earlier today, there is something pretty cool about looking at a bunch of information and finding connections that maybe no one has noticed before. We information geeks love that kind of thing. If you’re interested, you can check out my literature review here.

For those of you who are on summer vacation, I hope you’re having a great one! My nose will be back to the ol’ digital literacy grindstone again tomorrow. 😉

Fondly,

Nancy

Happy to Be Here

Dear Teachers,
It’s hard for me to believe, but I’ve been in my current role of Instructional Technology Specialist almost 10 years. It was 16 years ago that I started in this district as a middle school librarian. That means I’m starting my SEVENTEENTH year in the district. I can’t say it seems exactly like yesterday, but it definitely doesn’t seem like close to two decades.Where does the time go, anyway?When I started back to work in 2000, I had been home with my kids for several years; they were 9 and 7. Now they are 25 and 23. I was married to the wrong person at the time; now I’ve been married to the right person for over 11 years. The best people I’ve ever known work in my school district, and I’m proud to call them all acquaintances, and many of them capital-F Friends. My current co-workers are beyond amazing, and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities I’ve had. As grueling as being back in grad school can be, I love what I’m learning. I have ideas that seem to have a good chance of coming to fruition. Life is by all accounts pretty good.Tomorrow begins another school year. You may have not liked children all that much back in May, when the last school year was wrapping up and it was all you could do to drag yourself into your classroom or library every day. But tomorrow. Oh, tomorrow: I know how excited you all are to get to meet your new crop of students and to see how the year will unfold. Into your room tomorrow will walk all kinds of students… those who have every advantage, and those who have never once had an advocate before you came into their lives. They will need you in ways you can’t imagine, but I know you: you will rise to their every need and do more than many people would ever dream possible.

I went to yoga this morning, and when my sweet yoga instructor greeted me as I was signing in and gave the usual, “How are you?” my reply came out unbidden: “I’m happy to be here.” But I’ve kind of been contemplating my response all day today.
Happy: I WAS happy to be there. People at yoga always seem to enjoy being there, I make some amount of progress in stretchiness, and I always feel better when I leave than when I went in. I am the kind of relentlessly optimistic person that others probably find annoying sometimes; I can find the silver lining in any cloud.  “Happiness is a choice” sounds like a trite aphorism at times, and I do believe that some people are just wired for optimism or pessimism. But I also think everyone does have at least some degree of choice about how they view and respond to their surroundings. I am basically content, and I count that as a gift.
To Be: The older I get, the more I value the opportunity to just get to live and breathe on this planet. Time moves faster every year; it seems like it was just five or ten minutes ago that we were celebrating Christmas, and here we are almost at the end of August already. What a gift it is every day to wake up and smell coffee and have dog hair to sweep up and get to laugh with coworkers or have dinner with friends and go to bed with my best friend of all. To BE, to exist, to live: when you step back from it, is there anything to say besides WOW. My father died at the age of 44, so I’ve already had 12 more years than he had. I hope not to squander any time here in this precious existence.
Here: on this planet, in this city, in your home and your school. At yoga, at a great job, even sitting in traffic. Of all the places we could have ended up, we are HERE! Tomorrow your HERE will be your classroom; your students’ HERE will be their school, your room. What a great place to be! Make your students’ HERE the best place it can possibly be for the next 10 months or so!
Happy. To Be. Here.
Happy to Be, Here.
Happy, to be Here.
Yes. Yes I am. I hope that you are, too. Have a great day tomorrow, everyone!
Fondly,
Nancy