The month of November proved to be filled with amazing rides. As I reflect upon all that occurred within the space of 30 days, I consider myself lucky to have been a part of two particular events that for me captured the essence of the kick-off of the USDOE Future Ready Pledge as part of President Obama’s ConnectED Initiative. One dealt with the learning and connectivity of adults, the other with the learning and collaboration of students.
During a session with Dr. Joe Mazza in his digital leadership course as part of the mid-career doctoral program at Penn GSE, my cohort participated in #SATCHATWC on Twitter discussing the establishment of a global PLN. Over the course of one hour, I witnessed an amazing group of educators connect with others around the globe as the pros and cons of developing a global PLN on social media were shared. My fellow cohort members are a dedicated, passionate and driven group of individuals who take incredible actions in their various roles as principals, superintendents, teachers, central office administrators, school heads, consultants, and state-level policy makers to support the learning of students, teachers and administrators. Although for the past year and half, I have spoken to many of them about our experiences and growing knowledge of being connected educators, it was not until that day that I saw the spark of what it truly means to be a connected educator materialize for the entire group. The conversation within the class itself was as rich as the on-line sharing that occurred during the Twitter chat. My cohort members where genuinely excited and motivated to be putting into practice that which they had garnered from Dr. Mazza: connecting enhances learning.
On November 20, I had the pleasure of traveling to Johns Hopkins University Hospital to witness a capstone of my career in public education. A group of students in a fifth grade class in the district in which I work had read an article on Newsela about Dr. Albert Chi and his production of mechanical hands for patients. The article detailed how Dr. Chi and his team uses three-dimensional printers to manufacture low-cost prosthetics. Making a connection to their own experiences, the class wrote letters to Dr. Chi asking if he would create a hand for a teacher in their school who had lost her hand in an industrial accident at the age of 18. Dr. Chi was so impressed by their letters, he not only invited the entire class to visit him at Johns Hopkins, but he made a hand for the teacher and presented it to her on that day. I was very humbled to be there when she slipped on the device and was able to pick up and hold items, something she had not been able to do in over forty years. Dr. Chi shared with the students his difficult journey that brought him to be a trauma surgeon at Johns Hopkins, and how dedication, hard work and holding fast to your dreams can make a difference not only in one’s own life, but the life of others. In this case, these 18 students (and teachers, a principal and a superintendent) learned that when students work together and ask big questions, they can dramatically and positively change the situation of another person.
There is a quote from Michael Fullan referenced and posted by many connected educators: Pedagogy is the driver, technology is the accelerator. In terms of the amazing month of November, I can certainly attest to Fullan’s observation. In the case of my cohort at Penn GSE, I observed their recognition that being a digital leader does not necessarily mean knowing all the technical aspects of the latest technology, but being able to connect beyond the circle of friends and colleagues who meet once a month on campus to a world of other passionate educators ready to virtually teach and learn alongside of them. As for those elementary students whom I accompanied to Baltimore, I saw how the principles of learning, leading and caring were enhanced by technology. In both cases, I am thrilled that a pedagogy of connection, collaboration and support was accelerated by technologies to which we as learners and teachers have access.