Monday, November 7, 2011
A Reflection of Project DIRECT by Rebecca Toews
While this statement is true in many parts of my life, in this context, I recently had the opportunity to join two dozen rural educators while they were introduced or re-introduced to one another in a virtual world known as Second Life. The teachers who attended Project DIRECT’s weekend workshop in Medford last weekend prove daily that they are ready and able to use technology in their classrooms and in their own continuing education. #wearelivinginthefuture.
Most of the teachers in the room were not from large or wealthy districts; they came together from rural districts where resources and time to learn new techniques are often not supported by the bottom line. I grew up in one of those districts, in a small town in southeastern Minnesota-- and coming from a household of two teachers I heard the frustrations of the rural schoolteacher often. But this program effectively alleviates some of those concerns and is bringing teachers together virtually for support and learning.
As a graduate student in the Communication & Society program at the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon, I felt honored to be learning from, and with, these amazing people. Many of the teachers had been working together virtually through Second Life for the past year, many were coming to the virtual world as “newbies” but all seemed excited to be part of the program.
As I sat watching one duo at the workshop demonstrate how they use multimedia tools to help students create high-tech presentations and video projects, I realized how far we have come and how much farther we need to go. In their tech-friendly classrooms, these teachers harness the technology1 our “digital native” children already are interested in and many are already using. Another educator demonstrated how he uses an open-source course management program2 to engage students in their own online learning classes-- a fascinating way educators can connect to their students outside of the classroom as well as within it!
At the SOJC we train undergraduate students to be effective journalists and engaging storytellers. We do this not simply to introduce the newest bells and whistles that are available, but because these tools add to what the student is trying to convey to her or his audience. In the K-12 classroom the same is true. Students can create innovative projects that enhance their classrooms and reinforce the core curriculum.
Now as I contemplate pursuing my own future as an educator I am a little more confident that there are some people on the right path, a progressive one that involves technology instead of shrinking from it or being fearful of it. Classrooms these days are alive-- or at least they can be.