Thursday, April 23, 2009

Introducing SueH

Who is SueH -- the teacher, the learner, the new grad assistant?

I started teaching in 1974, and until about 18 months ago was on a graceful glide path towards early retirement. I had taught most of the major academics for all grades from 8-12 in 3 Canadian provinces.

I was a near 'techno-fossil'. My idea of great tech skills was knowing which kid in class could hook up the video machine. "Been there; done that" was the way I thought of my career. Then my teaching partner suggested that I do a presentation in PowerPoint (PPT? what was that?) to introduce a new course we were thinking of offering, and my life and life's work changed almost overnight.

What a difference a year makes! Although I have always embraced the importance of using success as a way to draw students into the learning process, I had not really ever considered how deeply engaging students find tech tools until I caught that bug myself.

Working with these tools makes me feel creative where I never did before, has given me a renewed spirit of exploration and discovery, and a drive to express myself and connect with others that I have not felt since I was last really excited by my work. My teaching practice has been revitalised by this new passion to find ways to use web-based tools and resources to connect with my students. Here's what I've learned so far:

I work in an alternative high school with the kids mainstream schools love to get rid of. They are the high maintenance kids who come challenging us to get them to care about school even a little. To take my students where I want them to go, I have to start from where they are. For them to risk the process of re-engagement, I have to connect at the level of emotion and interest.

To that end, I'm gradually reworking lessons and activities -- looking for places to incorporate one new tool or resource at a time in an effort move towards a model of blended learning -- one that melds the best of old and new school and brings smiles to the faces of my students as they find us unexpectedly connected by this interest Web 2.0.

So at 57, I've gone back to school and am now the official Grad Assistant for the Instructional Media Grad Program. My students are fascinated by this: I'm a student just like them and am having to learn to buck up under the frustration just like them. I struggle with my assignments just like they do, and we commiserate about how tough it can be a student in today's world. I'm going to have to get them to show me how to navigate through Facebook, but I thought I'd share the link to the Wilkes University Instructional Media Program page. There's a slide show of our Alma Mater and you can sign up to connect with other IM students.

More soon . . .

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