Sunday, March 22, 2009

MACUL presenter, Steve Dembo

This week at the MACUL conference, Steve Dembo categorically stressed that SCHOOLS HAVE TO CHANGE in order for us to effectively reach the digital natives (aka students) that are sitting in our classrooms. He also clarified that it isn’t the curriculum that has to change, it is the teachers.

Steve’s solution is to encourage teachers to just get out there and do it! He maintains that even if you don’t have a lot of knowledge or a strong comfort level, your students will be instrumental in helping to guide the way. Many of these Web 2.0 tools are created to be intuitive so you do not have to sit at the computer with a great deal of background knowledge. He did acknowledge, however, that in order for teachers to adopt the “just do it!” attitude, our Technology Departments MUST be on board as well and allow us all to have access and freedom to take advantage of the resources available. And there are millions of resources out there. Yet, teachers need to embrace the idea of diving in to learning how to speak the technology native’s “dialect” if we have not done so yet and get over the fact that we are immigrants who may never lose that “cute digital accent”.

Our students are mega-connected and able to multi-process. That concept is not really up for debate right now on whether it is good or bad for them to be navigating their world this way; it is just the reality of the current culture. The amount of information available to us is staggering and growing every day. We all have the potential to harness the available tools and become innovators! The web enables us to engage in information seeking and connecting with others 24/7. That is exciting! By embracing these tools we become networks in action. Our professional development is continuous and available and can be self-directed! I cannot think of a better or more motivating way to participate in my professional development. Steve also wants us to work to give back to the profession. Let people know what you are doing; share, pass it along!

So, you may be asking, “where do I start?” A simple, yet effective way is to challenge yourself to see what you can learn in 30 minutes at the computer. Next, learn how to tap into a community and start connecting. This is what it is all about. We must work to connect teachers to their most valuable resource; each other. It is not fully attainable through presentations or sessions: it is all about the CONNECTION and dialogue. Professional Development is everyday; exciting and fun!