Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Compulsory Why

Today I was asked the most important question of all:

Why do I do what I do?

This question came from our leader of educational technology (an inspiring woman) with just a brief introduction. We were just asked to write a bit about why we do what we do.

I love this question. I typed furiously for the whole time she allotted to us. I went from the lofty, to the practical and back again. I also loved hearing all the typing and writing in the room around me. Knowing that I was on a team with a group of other passionate educators got me writing even more. Here is what I wrote:

I do what I do because I believe in the transformative power of educational technology. I believe that when students are given the opportunity to create, share, and problem-solve using relevant, powerful digital tools, they become more engaged in their education, more confident in their abilities and more curious about the world they live in. I believe that education needs to stay relevant as the world is changing and we need to provide teachers and students with the tools and resources they need to understand the complexities of the world they live in, to communicate and collaborate with others beyond their own classroom and to solve real problems that exist in the world today. I believe that teachers have a tremendous burden to teach children, curriculum and skills and that I can help share that burden by sharing what I know about digital tools. I also believe that students that are not currently feeling successful in school can grow and benefit from exposure to digital tools and resources when given the freedom to choose and reflect on the work they do.
When we "finished" what we were writing, we were introduced to Simon Sinek's TED talk "How great leaders inspire action" If you haven't already listened to this TED talk, it focuses on change agents. What Simon Sinek argues is that what distinguishes leaders from everyone else is that they focus on the "why." Instead of explaining what they do or how they do it, they communicate why they do it. Leaders let you know what they believe and inspire you to see what you believe in, in what they believe. Leaders share their I believe statements with you, not just their plans for action. As all good TED talks do, he has great visuals and great examples. If you are interested in considering how you can be a leader that inspires action, I recommend this thought-provoking video.

So, back to me. So why were we shown this video? Why were we asked to write why we do what we do? I think that in educational technology (like many fields) it is easy to get caught up in the what and they how. Here are some examples of typical "what" and "how" types of statements.

"Here is a new, great tool!" 

"Here is where to click to make your... photostory, glog, prezi, [fill in the blank]"

"We need more laptops, iPads, headphones [fill in the blank]"

But we need to spend just as much time on the "why." So, here are some of the statements I want to make a regular part of my work with teachers and school leaders:

"I believe that asking students to publish their writing on a wiki will change how they think of themselves as writers." [More on this, see Dude, Can You Please Edit]

"I believe that if students communicate directly with students from other cultures. we will create more compassionate, caring young people." [More on this, see Teachers Teaching Teachers about Global Projects]

"I believe that by playing an immersive, multi-player math game, students will do more math and become more confident in their math skills." [More on this, see Running to get to math class]

I left our meeting today more committed to sharing my "why" with the teachers and school leaders I work with. I am passionate about what I do and I do believe in what I do. I need to make sure others see this and want to believe it too.

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