Connecting… The Isolated
I’ll never forget my first day as a brand new high school teacher. As a young college graduate (with absolutely no experience teaching and a one-hour course on classroom management), I stood stiffly in front of the room on that hot end-of-summer day, afraid to crack a smile. Thankfully, a more seasoned teacher had taken me to lunch the day before school started, so I at least had a pretty good idea of how to set up my grade book, allocate points to assignments, and fashion a seating chart.
Transforming the Way Teachers Connect
Collaboration with other teachers only took place in the break room, where we were more likely to discuss how to manage difficult students than better ways to teach Romeo and Juliet. Outside of the break room, we would revert to our classroom enclaves, close our doors, and do our own things in our own unique ways. I felt patently isolated and afraid to admit I didn’t really know what I was doing.
At that point, technology wasn’t going to change this feeling or environment. Overhead projectors, VHS videos, boom boxes, Xerox copiers, and colorful Kodak slides from summer trips were the extent of our exposure to and use of technology. We never imagined that technology could connect us, bring us closer to one another, provide us with the opportunity to share best practices, help us better connect with students, parents, and outside experts, and enable us to become better teachers.
But it’s happening now. Technology is breaking down the walls of our traditional classrooms and creating more communal, less isolated, experiences for faculty, staff, and students. Teachers are connecting classrooms across geographic boundaries, and students are accessing rich, digital content, day in and day out, augmenting their learning experiences. Classroom spaces are being re-designed, and new video and collaboration technologies are completely transforming the teaching and learning dynamic. Beyond classes, teachers are using video and collaboration technologies for professional development, sharing teaching methodologies, lesson plans, and course content.
Who would ever have imagined that students would watch a lecture before class so that they could carry on a rich dialogue and help develop critical thinking skills during class? Or, take a virtual field trip to the Louvre? Or, regularly attend foreign language classes with native speakers each week?
October: Connected Educator Month
This is why I’m thrilled about Connected Educator Month. What better way to bring teachers together than through technology with unified communities of practice and social networks? Here, educators can engage in discussions about research, test results, and learn more about what is happening across our broad network of educators throughout the country. Connected Educator Month helps teachers thrive in a connected world. We applaud the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education for their leadership in connecting the unconnected, creating an open environment, and helping educators to feel less isolated.
For Cisco, this is important because we are connecting the unconnected with the Internet of Everything (IoE). Cisco defines IoE as bringing together people, process, data, and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before — turning information into actions that create new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented economic opportunity for businesses, individuals, and countries.
How have you seen technology change the way teachers connect and students learn?