Saturday, October 24, 2009

Taking the Digital Plunge

The author of this article, Bill Ferriter, is a self described digital junkie. Though I hardly put myself in that category, I was inspired by his description of the genesis of his obsession because, I too, have "a high-speed Internet connection and a bit of moxie" - so what's my excuse for not at least getting started?

One of the things that teachers both love and lack is enough time to commiserate with colleagues and learn from the collective pool of wisdom, creativity, and experience at their disposal. We can't seem to carve out enough time in our day to go to the bathroom, let alone sit and share ideas with our like-minded peers. We are, between the hours of 8 and 3, largely unavailable to our immediate professional learning community. Though there is no substitute for time spent with colleagues who most closely "share our story", 21st century technology opens up other options for professional learning. On our own time, using tools like blogs and RSS feeds, we are now able to connect with and learn from our teaching colleagues across the globe. As the next natural step, teachers must then guide students to do the same, using computers, as Ferriter states, "to learn with- rather than simply about- the world".

It is clear that even the youngest of our students are highly capable of connecting in this digital age. Ferriter encourages the teacher to take a more active role in helping students to recognize the power of these connections. In this age where the globe is shrinking in terms of the ease with which we can connect with others, both young and older have a unique opportunity to use this networking for more meaningful personal growth. As we become more in tune with the idea that we are, in fact, all ONE, we can use today's technology to find others who share our passions and explore global challenges together. We can share what we have learned and, in turn, learn from so many others.

Teachers who are willing to explore these possibilities and become efficient 21st century learners themselves will be better equipped to present that model of life-long learning to our students. Teaching our students the value behind the networking is, perhaps, the most valuable way of supporting our networked kids.