Thursday, May 15, 2014

Recess for Teachers: The Importance of Digital Play Dates for Educators!

With the expectation for increased technology integration and ever-changing content standards in the classroom, teachers are facing uncharted territory. They have dedicated their lives to knowing their content inside and out, but with 24/7 access to internet, the role of the teacher has become much more complex. This immediate and constant ability to get this information has not eliminated the need for teachers, but has altered the way they should deliver instruction. The internet offers options we have never seen before, and can make even the most veteran teacher feel like a newbie. We can not shy away from this, but should embrace the change. Educators must truly commit to becoming life long learners in not only their content area but new pedagogy as well. My suggestion for giving teachers and other educators confidence, in terms of new technology and social media, would be to give them time to play!

I think back on all the technology meetings I've been to that consisted of one "know-it-all" standing in front of a faculty meeting, talking about what we should all be doing but aren't. They would go on about why everyone needs to use this tool or that one, this app or tweet this, and so on and so forth. The fact is, if teachers don't see value and can't make the connection, like our students, they will check out of the conversation. Teachers need time to look at these tech tools and figure them out. They need to feel safe to ask questions and have someone available to assist them in doing so.

Recently, I was in a meeting where a teacher leader on my campus presented to our Instructional Leadership Team on Twitter. It was fantastic, he broke the "how to" down as simple as possible, (he used an overhead to explain:)))) and then allowed everyone in the room to just play with it. It was AWESOME! Now don't get me wrong, not everything worked, we had connectivity issues, and not everyone was into it, but there was no pressure. We just had time to "play" on Twitter. We helped each other and had a real conversations about our individual thoughts on the best way to use it. We were all active participants in a Twitter Play Group!

That night after we had all gone home, 5 of the 9 people in that group participated in an edchat! I see that as a win! This really got me thinking about how great it would be if teachers were allotted time regularly to have "play dates" with their colleges using relevant technology tools? I have heard about schools doing this and am now interested to find out more!

In closing, I had a small glimpse of the power of free play. I was quite impressed with the passionate discussion that in sued (for and against what we were doing) and the outcome that included several teachers connecting through Twitter that very day! I can't help but think that this time we spent "playing around" with this tool, was time well spent!  I would encourage others to host some free digital play time in their schools, and support their teachers in this new era of education.

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