Recently, my brother Dr. Alec Couros, sent out a short survey asking educators to list three social networking tools they find useful. His inquiry ignited some memories and reflections for me on the topic of technology integration and brought to light how my views have substantially changed in the last year.
Even though I have always been known as a technology integration leader within the schools and divisions where I worked; this year in particular, I have grown more than any other. One of my personal professional development goals was to improve the technology integration of the entire school where I currently work as principal. As a first year principal I originally thought this was going to be a daunting, solitary task. I quickly realized I was wrong. I did I not have to accomplish this goal alone. In fact, I found tons of people in the field of education who WANTED to help me along on my journey.
The Light Bulb Moment
Perusing Facebook one day after work, I noticed my brother’s status update and realized he was only two hours away from me presenting at a conference. Seeing my brother in person is something that I do not get to do enough of, so within moments I was on my way to Red Deer, Alberta to join my brother and one of his colleagues, Will Richardson.
At the time, I knew the work of former NBA player Pooh Richardson better than that of Will Richardson. My brother informed me of Will’s influence in the area of educational technology, and suggested that sitting with him over supper may be a good opportunity for me to learn more about how to achieve my goal After a few informal exchanges, the conversation somehow turned to bookmarking. Will asked me what I tool I use. I proudly shared with him (feeling that I was VERY organized), “I use Xmarks for Firefox.” Without hesitation, Will jokingly asked, “So you are a hoarder of information?”
At that very moment, it struck me. All of the really good websites that I used, I kept to myself. I was not sharing with the rest of the world, let alone my own colleagues. My light bulb moment illuminated a habit of hoarding, not only my bookmarks, but ideas, thoughts, tools, and useful practices. I was not sharing useful information (save for a random email explaining some sites I felt worthy of sharing). Neither was I taking the opportunity to learn from others.
The next day after our conversation, I decided to reestablish myself on Twitter. I wanted to try to take part in the Personal Learning Network (PLN) my brother deemed so valuable. Twitter never seemed to make sense to me, but I promised I would give it a try. Within a week, my followers grew from 20 to 200. Admittedly, I felt the need to ensure I posted information that would be helpful and beneficial to my new and growing circle of friends and colleagues. I quickly realized the importance of the audience, how it affected me and helped me improve my own practice, and strengthened my belief that thoughtful integration of technology would surely help improve the learning of the staff and students at my school.
Sharing the Light
At the beginning of the year, I envisioned using hardware such as document cameras, digital cameras, and SmartBoards in our school, and working with staff to help develop their abilities in this area—I have definitely seen a great improvement in this area. I am also seeing increased enthusiasm in the area of Web2.0 and the benefits of connecting with others. More and more of our staff now recognize the value of joining social networks for learning. IDEAS are valued more than superficial things such as photographs taken with a digital camera.
If a few months ago you would have asked about my goals for technology integration this year, connecting to educators around the world, and learning from them, would not have even been on my radar. Now I see the path more clearly. It has in fact become essential to the work I do as a leader in my school and to my personal growth.
Thoughtful integration of technology, especially PLNs, increasingly illuminates how much I appreciate learning from others, and sharing my learning with the members of our school community. By “sharing the light,” I hope to help my staff find a similar path to the one I am on this year.
Seemingly starting over in Kindergarten, I am glad I have learned to share once again.