I was very excited to be asked to write the introduction for an e-book that Richard Byrne is putting together to share with educators next week.  I am really hoping that I can give that little push to educators to start using these free technologies to connect kids around the world.  In the spirit of sharing, the introduction is below.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by stevendepolo

“The times they are a-changing.” Bob Dylan

This is probably the most overused, yet most relevant quote on the planet.  The times they are always changing and although the world continues to change with it, some educational practices have become stagnant.  Walking through classrooms, you can still see students lined up in rows, writing solitary exams, while the world continuously pressures us to shape collaborators, thinkers, and innovators.  Education should be “a-changing” right along with society.

Here is something that hasn’t changed though: the best teaching is always built upon relationships.  Think back to your own favourite teachers.  They were probably people who knew quite a bit about and made you feel that you were a unique and special individual.  The fact of the matter is that they did this probably for most students they encountered.  They were people who you felt believed in you and inspired you to do great things, maybe even to become a teacher.  They always seemed to go the extra mile to ensure that you knew your strengths and cared deeply about your passions.  No matter what technology comes into our classrooms, nothing will ever replace a good teacher.  Nothing.

Now, take that good teaching and equip it with the advancing technology we now have at our fingertips.  This is the game changer for educators.  Preparing our students not only to be digitally savvy, but leveraging these technologies to help them create, communicate, connect and collaborate will prepare them to be contributing citizens to their future.  When we were in school, bringing the “TV” to the classroom was one of the best days ever.  Now we have the opportunity to bring the world to the classroom every day.  I would be excited to have this opportunity as a learner, but I am even more excited as an educator.  We have the means to create this revolution in learning where our students not only learn, but connect with people around the globe.

Here is a problem: you may not feel comfortable with this technology.  That’s okay, because there are probably people in your school that are, and those people are willing to help to get you started.  If they are not in your school, they are sitting here and waiting to jump into your classroom from miles away.  We all became educators to do what is best for all kids, not just a small group of kids.  If you don’t feel comfortable with the technology, though, I have three words for you: get over it.  This is not about you, this is about our kids.  We have to do everything to empower our students for their future, not our past, or even our present.

What is your goal?  To have students become successful at school or successful in life?  Don’t be scared to take risks and screw up.  This is what you tell your kids everyday in school, and we are meant to be their role models.  Live your words in front of your students.  My advice?  When the screen pops up, to click any of these words: Accept, Next, and OK.  I promise you that you will not wreck anything, but the rewards on the other side of these words are worth the risk.  Go for it!

The best thing about this technology is that it is built upon the same premise of good teaching: relationships.  Social media is about connecting and learning from people, getting to know about other cultures and perspectives, sharing, and empowering our students to connect, not with computers, but with people.  The biggest reason to use this technology is not about the “cool” factor.  That wears off.  It is about learning from people.  By opening access to your students, you are opening their minds to perspectives and experiences that go far beyond the four walls of the classroom.  Be the facilitator of these opportunities so that our students can learn in a safe and meaningful way.  When they grow up, you will be held in the same regard to them as your teachers were to you.  Provide opportunities and create change.

I know that the learning in this book will help you to prepare your students for their future so that they will not only contribute to it, they will lead and define it.  Your students are going to use this technology either because of you, or in spite of you.  I know which reason I want to be.  How about you?

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