Each week, an educator takes a stand or shares an Aha! moment in the classroom in the Education World Voice of Experience column. This week, educator Brenda Dyck discusses a "wired teachers" group she led in her school. Dyck was granted release time to work with teachers who signed on to be part of the group, and group members have cheered one another on to tech success. "I have a suspicion that the next time our principal asks for volunteers to join our 'wired teachers' group, we may have an onslaught response!" writes Dyck in this week's Voice of Experience.
When I tell people that I am becoming a wired teacher, I get some odd responses. Thinking that it means I'm "stressed out," my listener will usually share his or her own stressors along with suggestions for stress management. Others, who think I'm speaking of the high energy I bring to my teaching, proceed to applaud my efforts and ask how I do it.
The truth is, becoming a wired teacher stems from a deep philosophical belief that technology has the potential to enhance not only my students' learning but my own professional development as well.
This all-encompassing belief in the positive impact that technology can have began with me as a quiet hunch. The hunch grew and intensified as I started to observe the results of injecting Internet-related activities into my project assignments, writing my own curriculum-specific online projects, and eventually collaborating globally with other classrooms.
Becoming a wired teacher is more of a process than a destination. My beginning steps were small and cautious ones; my later strides were more adventuresome and confident. My latest adventure has led me from scouting out new learning for myself to sharing my learning with others.
The idea to share my learning with my colleagues actually started with my principal. Although she didn't completely understand what technology integration was, she did know that what I was doing in the classroom was grabbing student interest and producing some interesting results. She believed the wonder of technology integration could be communicated with our staff if I could just spend some extended time with teachers who had so much as a beginning interest. One of the key components of this plan was her belief that unless the school was willing to provide release time from the classroom, teachers would just view technology integration as another responsibility to add to an already overwhelming job description.
Determined to get started, she fired off an e-mail to the staff asking for volunteers to consider becoming part of a wired teachers group, an initiative that would be supported with release time from their classroom teaching. Eight teachers accepted the challenge, and I began the task of thinking through how I would mentor this group.
Working with a group of teachers who are keen to learn all you have to share is an incredibly rewarding experience. Most of these prospective wired teachers came with an adequate level of technology skill, so their progress has been fast and profound. Their goal was to take a unit of study from their curriculum and translate it into an online project that would challenge their students' thinking.
As we proceeded, a real sense of camaraderie developed among the participants as they learned and refined their integration skills. The day their first Web page went live was a time of collaborative congratulations for all of us.
Over the past few months, teachers have implemented their projects with their students and posted the resulting work online. At the end of the year, we will share our learning with our colleagues at an after-school reception. What a wonderful time of celebration that will be!
It's been fun to watch the curiosity that our wired teachers group has created within our school. Teachers frequently wander into our sessions to listen and watch. Some even ask when the next wired teachers group will run. I have a sneaking suspicion that the next time our principal sends an e-mail asking for volunteers, we may have an onslaught response!
Brenda Dyck teaches at ABC Charter Public School, a school for gifted and talented children, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. In addition to teaching sixth-grade math and science, Dyck is also the school librarian. She has written for various educational periodicals and is a teacher-editor for Midlink magazine.