Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Power of Story



A little peek into our brainstorming



“Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving.” -Madeleine L’Engle






I  love Tuesdays.  Tuesdays provide a break from my regular hectic schedule.  Every Tuesday morning, the literacy coaches in my district meet.  It's our time to talk about district initiatives, share what's happening in our buildings, and just generally support each other in our jobs.  I always leave our meetings feeling energized for the upcoming week. There's something about hanging out with others who "get you" and welcome those conversations that push your thinking.  

Once a month our large group breaks into smaller focus groups.  Our group's task today was to meet with the district web designer, Kelly, to discuss the new literacy website.  This is no small task, but gather 6 women who like to think big, and the task can soon become pretty daunting.

Our ideas were flowing as Molly jotted our thinking on the white board. It wasn't long before purple ink filled the board, our lists becoming longer and more complicated.  One idea spurred another idea, which led to another idea.  Where would we even begin?  You could feel the enormity of the task settle in on us.

And then Kelly asked us a simple question.

"What if instead of creating a typical website, we created a space where we could tell teachers' stories?"

Tell teachers' stories?  It was brilliant!  We all know the power of stories.  Stories bring us together.  Stories ground us. We learn from each other's stories.    Don't we begin our year by asking our students to share their stories?   These stories become the foundation of our writing workshops and make our community stronger.

Teachers have stories to share too.  We don't hear them often enough...stories of celebration, stories of frustration and being in over your head, stories of determination and success.  Each and every story is integral to who a teacher is.  They are important and they need to be told.

Kelly's simple question changed our all-been-tried-before website idea into something dynamic.    We tossed around more ideas, decided on a place to start and created a plan to gather stories.  We ended our meeting with a sense of purpose and excitement.

Kelly was able see what we couldn't see.  Sometimes it takes someone with a different lens to sort through the mess to find the gem that's buried deep inside.  She sat back quietly, took it all in, and helped us find our story.





Please stop by Two Writing Teachers to read other Slice of Life stories.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Taking Away Technology Tools as Punishment: Appropriate or Not?



I hear over and over again that the use of technology is a privilege. Colleagues that I respect and admire go back and forth about the appropriateness of taking technology away from students as a punishment for misbehavior.   I know that these words are spoken from a place of frustration.  It comes from, "I've tried everything else. I don't know what else to do."  It's an interesting concept to consider because I think we need to consider what we mean by privilege.

According to dictionary.com, the definition of privilege is a right or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most.

Yes, we are very privileged in our district that we have the technology resources that we do.  We benefit immensely from having an administration  that recognizes that our world is changing and we need to keep up. They are committed to providing the resources that will help our students be successful citizens in the future.  Teachers are provided professional development to keep up with what is available.

Is technology something that should only be "enjoyed" by a few who are fortunate?  I think we would all agree that the answer to that is, "No."  If we want our students to be productive citizens in the future, we need to equip them with the necessary skills to navigate our information rich society.

Is the use of technology a right that shouldn't be taken away?  When I think about how we use technology in our classroom, I have to believe that it is.  The use of technology is an integral part of our learning.  Our students are learning important strategies that help them navigate digital texts.  They study digital compositions as mentors and learn to make purposeful decisions as digital writers themselves. They are connecting with a global audience and learning how to be responsible digital citizens.  They are collaborating, creating, responding, and connecting all with the help of technology.  I would argue that the integration of technology is one more tool that our students have at their disposal when they are making decisions as readers and writers.  I would never consider taking away pencils and books as a punishment, so why would I consider taking away iPads and online websites that benefit my students?

I am sure that some may disagree with me.  I'd love to continue the conversation.  What are your thoughts about the use of technology being a privilege?  Is it appropriate for teachers to take away technology as punishment?

Please join other educators as they discuss how they are using technology in their classrooms.  Visit Reflections on the Teche to see other links to DigiLit Sunday.