I have to admit, on that first day, I felt out of my league. I spent my day going from session to session soaking up every idea. Some of them came at me so fast, the whole experience was "like drinking from the fire hydrant of opportunity," (as Brian M. quoted Bill Hoffman in one of his tweets). By the end of the day, I was drenched. Here was this whole community out there doing amazing things with innovative tools, and I barely knew about it.
A bit overwhelmed, I returned on Sunday, ready to fill up an already full tank when the keynote speaker, Rushton Hurley, reminded me of something important, no matter where we lie on the technology continuum.
My "ah ha" moment began when he showed us this video:
My initial reaction was, yup, I'm the lamp. I get it. Like that has-been light fixture, I live in a fast-paced world, and I can't keep up. That's when Rushton said, "We're not the lamp, we're the light." And what is our light? It's when we connect with our students at the time they need it the most.
That's when it hit me. Here I was trying to pick up every new trick and tip, but it's not about the technology. It's about finding more efficient ways to connect with our students and have them to connect with each other.
I remembered the video I had seen in a session on Saturday. In it, a science teacher used a Google form to ask her students about how they were doing. As if unlocking a seemingly bolted door, she provided a way through which her kids could express their feelings. She connected with them unlike any other teacher, and their learning flourished. Her light shined brighter as a result.
I began thinking about all of the tools I was learning this weekend: Teacher Dashboard, Google Forms, Youtube, Twitter, Google Apps, Google Hangout, and more. They aren't tools that I need to learn so I can keep up. They are opportunities for me to connect with my students. When I use Teacher Dashboard to quickly read through student drafts to see where my writers are or create a Google form to get some instant feedback from my students, I can fine-tune my teaching with more precision. My light will shine brighter as a result.
The lamp video failed to mention one thing. With both lamps working together, the whole room is brighter. Last week, in my Power of Partnerships post, I wrote that I'm not the only teacher in the room. I know that my students have lots to learn from each other, and if I use just one tool that showcases their expertise and perspective, I know that my whole classroom will be brighter as a result. Check out this video that Rushton shared with us:
By creating this video, this student is able to teach others new possibilities, and when they give him feedback, he finds purpose and place in the community. His light shines brighter as a result.
Here's the thing. Our lights aren't broken. In fact, with the growth we've made over the past few years, they're brighter than ever. I know this because I've seen it. With technology though, we'll be able to do it even better. Believe me, we shouldn't feel as though we need to learn every new tool and trick out there. There's just no way we can. After all, there are people around us who already have. What we need to do is to keep them in mind and call on them when those tools may make a greater difference. And by having those experts show us how to use them, their light will shine brighter as a result.
By Sunday afternoon, I no longer felt out of place nor overwhelmed. I realized that this wasn't just a technology conference. It was much greater than that. It was about sharing ideas that work. It was about leveraging our collective intelligence. It was about connecting with others to find purpose and place. In essence, it was all about good teaching and learning, and that's what I strive for each day in my classes. Now, with some help from those around me, I hope to do it even better.