Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

teacher appreciation week

Every May the U.S. celebrates Teacher Appreciation Week. At Edcite we appreciate teachers every day, but we use this week to shout it from the rooftops!

Our team is made up of several former teachers plus team members who have had important teachers in their lives. Every day we work to offer a platform that will help teachers and their classrooms. To celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week this year, the Edcite Team wanted to share words of gratitude for our teaching community.

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megaphoneShow a colleague how much you appreciate their hard work using Edcite by posting a message on Twitter or Facebook. If you tag @EdciteTeam, we’ll share your post!

Why Twitter is an Invaluable Tool For Teachers

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I taught English in LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District) — the country’s second largest school district — for nine years. At two schools, I taught a wide variety of students, from those who read far below grade level to gifted readers and writers. My classroom was rich with differences: various academic levels, backgrounds, and home languages. I needed to learn how to best build upon these differences and teach well. It wasn’t enough for me to try and just figure it out on my own, so I became a collaborative teacher. Aside from connecting with my co-workers, I went to weekend PDs and conferences and spent hundreds of hours poring over the Internet to find fresh strategies and ideas that other teachers out in the world had shared.

There was one thing, though, that I refused to do for years: use social media to collaborate. LAUSD has a code of conduct like many districts do, and teachers are prohibited from interacting with students on social media. Teacher scandals had rocked the district the past couple of years, and principals urged all of us to be very careful about social media. Most teachers I knew wanted to stay far, far away from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, in order to protect themselves. Besides, I thought, who cares about pictures of people’s brunches or quips about celebrities?

I never would have guessed that I would completely change mind about using social media. In fact, it has become my favorite way to grow as an educator.

Twitter Is a Teacher’s Friend

My Edcite co-worker Talia (@taliaarbit) encouraged me to check out Twitter as way to connect with teachers. I didn’t realize that so many educators used Twitter professionally. I started perusing Edcite’s Twitter feed (@EdciteTeam) and Edcite team members’ feeds. From there, I found English teachers and middle school teachers. I discovered that educators aren’t posting about their meals or pop culture; they post articles and blogs about education, pictures of hands-on classroom projects, videos about technology, and a lot of positive messages. I realized that I had been missing out on a huge opportunity to better serve my students. Twitter was not something to be afraid of or turn away from. It was something that could help me take charge of my development as an educator!

Community

To my surprise, I started “meeting” educators from not only California but from around the world. I connected with teachers across the U.S., Europe, and even Australia. It was amazing to see what these teachers were doing in their classrooms and to hear their perspectives on education.International T Pic 1

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What I had created, by following others on Twitter and gaining followers in return, was a Personal Learning Network (PLN). This was exactly what I had been seeking when I spent all those hours on the Internet searching for other teachers’ new ideas. Now I have instant, constant access to new ideas, whether they are related to innovative pedagogical practices or curricular suggestions.

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Twitter Example 3

I chose to write this blog post and share my own journey in the hopes that it might inspire educators and administrators who fear using social media as a tool, like I once did. Our students use social media constantly, and it’s time we as educators embrace the power of sites like Twitter and use them to our advantage with students. Let’s model what it looks like to use social media tools responsibly; to build an intentional community you can learn from and with. 


profileNicole Bixler taught middle school in Los Angeles for nine years. She taught English, Theater Production, Creative Writing, and World History. Nicole used sites like Edcite often in her classroom to incorporate standards-based assignments and help students practice for the end-of-year exams. Now, Nicole works on both content development and outreach for Edcite in the Southern California region. Feel free to connect with her anytime at nicole@edcite.com or @nicolebix on Twitter!

A Global Glimpse of the Digital Divide

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Technology has been hailed by some as “the great equalizer.” As an IBM inventor and White House Champion of Change Dimitri Kanevsky asserts: “technology is constantly evolving to remove barriers that emerge due to a person’s social characteristics, geographic location, physical or sensory abilities.” But does technology in fact ‘remove barriers’ or does it only exacerbate pre-existing ones?

In the 1990s, the National Telecommunications & Information Administration of the Department of Commerce began to report a stark divide between Americans with internet connectivity and those without. This gap became known as the “digital divide”, or a divide between those with access to new technologies — like the internet — and those without.

Since its conception, the term “digital divide” has adopted many nuanced meanings. When I taught high school, I witnessed the divide not through internet connectivity, which was pervasive both at home and at school, but in the availability of tech tools such as tablets or computers. I noticed that most of my higher-income students had at least 1 laptop at home, whereas many low-income students did not. Access to technology also varied with race, such that most of the White and Asian students did own a personal device while many of my hispanic students did not.

Now, as a graduate student in the field of education, I wanted to expand my understanding of this concept. First, I hoped to explore the different facets of the digital divide. In so doing, I aimed to discern how this “digital divide” varies on a global scale. Do other countries experience a digital divide? If so, in what way?

I interviewed teachers and members of my team at Edcite, who have been working in the field of education technology in countries like the United States, India, and Ireland. Though I saw the digital divide correlate with race and income levels in my own classroom, I didn’t want my own experience to color the questions I posed or the answers I heard from my interviewees. I made sure to ask open-ended questions and listen — really, truly listen — to the viewpoints of my interviewees.

Conducting these video interviews brought to light many new sides of the digital divide. While I previously perceived of the digital divide as unidimensional, I now know that access to technology can be a function of:

  1. Socioeconomic levels
  2. Race
  3. Urban vs. Rural: as Julia Sweeney (Ireland) pointed out, internet connectivity and ownership of digital devices can vary based on where you live in Ireland. People that live near or in cities like Dublin will utilize more technology tools on a daily basis, while those living in rural environments might be excluded from this. According to the Federal Communications Commission, this rural/urban divide exists in the United States as well.
  4. Public schools vs. Private Schools: as Amar Rajasekhar explained, the digital divide in India breaks down by public and private schools. Schools that are sponsored by the government have fewer resources all around, whereas private schools possess more technology for students.
  5. Gender: according to Brian McIntosh (United States), there is a divide in technology “interest” (which can lead to a divide in proficiency as well) based on gender. His computer science class, though diverse by race and socioeconomic status, lacks females.
  6. Age: I always believed the digital divide to be a student-centered issue. But, in her interview, Mary Joy (India) discussed the digital challenges facing teachers, which made me ponder the generational divide in relation to technology. Even if a classroom has access to high-tech products, teachers may not know how to use them properly.

Ultimately, each of the countries surveyed in this project did experience a type of digital divide. Though the divide can change depending on the context, it is clearly a global, not national, problem. Dismal as that may be, the pervasiveness of this problem also paves the way for international collaboration to address this issue. Here at Edcite, we are committed to providing a free platform that everyone can use, regardless of income level, race, gender or age. Our mission is to empower teachers be part of the digital solutions by sharing their own digital resources. What can you do to help close the digital divide?

Dublin’s Edcite Teacher Night: Regionally Created, Globally Shared.

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A few weeks ago, some of our Irish teachers came together to create and share resources on Edcite for Edcite Teacher Night! The event drew about ten teachers to KC Peaches for the evening. After signing in, our teachers created accounts, checked out the resource library, and made resources they could use in their classrooms.

Although some terms for Irish teachers differ from those used by American teachers (e.g. “Grade” vs. “Class” and “Math” vs. “Maths”), a good resource is a good resource regardless of where you are. Some of our teachers found assignments created by American teachers that were tagged with Common Core standards, and added their own learning objectives to them to meet the needs of their curriculum and lesson.

Sarah O’Donnell, a third class teacher at Our Lady Of Lourdes found an eighth grade resource on poetry and adapted it to use in her class. She added her own questions and used the resource to address a learning objective about relating to others. You can find her adapted assignment here.

Sarah and Mary at Teacher NightOllie ODonoghue, a primary school teacher in Dublin, also created resources for his Irish students. When I went through and looked at them, I was very impressed! But, one thing stood out to me…I have always spelled kg as “kilogram” whereas over here in Ireland it’s spelled “kilogramme”. Then I looked through one of his resources on units of measure further and found other subtle differences…liter vs. litre, meter vs. metre. At first glance I noticed the differences, and thought about how we could “overcome” them when it came to the global sharing. I wanted to remind teachers that they could change questions before they sent them to students. However, the more I think about it, the more I think my initial reaction was wrong. The use of regionally created resources on a global scale does not need to be overcome, but rather celebrated. The world is more globalized every day, and our kids should know that. Why not use a units of measure assignment as an opportunity to practice that specific skill, but also teach diversity and that the world has many different ways of seeing things?

Another Dublin Primary School Teacher, Graeme Higgins, created money questions for his students. As you can probably guess, the money lesson was not made using dollars, quarters, dimes, etc. He created a Euros lesson for young students. Any Irish teacher will be able to use that assignment to go over money with their students, but so can any American teacher. Imagine a classroom where our students are experts at the norms in their country, but are exposed and aware of what happens in other countries. We stop just teaching about other countries in history class, and incorporate the global perspective into other lessons, like in this case global money into a math lesson. Check out his Euros lesson here.

Many resources came out of Edcite Teacher Night, you can find them by searching our Edcite Library for “NCCA” as a tag. We hope to continue having Teacher Nights and encouraging collaboration.

Teachers after Edcite Teacher Night

                               Some of our teachers enjoying a nice Irish pint afterwards to celebrate our collaboration!

Bio PictureJulia Sweeney, although currently working for Edcite in Ireland, is originally from Roseville, CA and went to University of the Pacific. She joined the Teach For America Delta Corps in 2011, where she taught middle school English and American History. She has a passion for education and exploring the vast potential technology offers  education systems, worldwide.

Note to any Irish Teachers: Reach out if you’d like to sit down and go through the site, give any feedback, or brainstorm ways you can use Edcite in your class! You can reach her via email at julia@edcite.com or on Twitter  @juliasween.

 

Fortune Favours the Brave

Last weekend I had the opportunity to represent Edcite at the CESI (Computers in Education Society of Ireland) conference in Galway, Ireland. CESI is a great organization that brings people together to collaborate on how we can best use technology in the education world. The people that I watched present, and the ideas that came from it, were impressive and energizing.

While at the conference, I was very struck by what our keynote speaker, Dr. Daithí Ó Murchú, stated… Fortune favours the brave. (For those reading from America, I did not misspell favour—over here it has a “u.”) I think that in education and in my experience as a teacher, sometimes changing our ways of doing something can be scary if not just annoying—but when you decide to take a leap of faith that something might actually change your teaching practice for the better…well, that’s when the fortune part comes in.

Before I fully discuss the conference and my major takeaways, I want to better explain how I got to present about Edcite in Ireland. I am from Northern California, where Edcite is currently based, and taught for Teach For America in the Mississippi Delta (Arkansas side) at a KIPP school. After Teach For America, I decided to move to Ireland and see where the Irish Sea would take me—and that’s when I realized how much I missed the education world. I found out about Edcite through an email asking if I was interested in making content for a website that would help teachers and students. I was all about reducing teacher work load while helping increasing student learning…so I got on board. The more I created content for the site, the more I became very invested in connecting teachers with this gold mine of free resources—but not just American teachers, the teachers I knew here in Ireland.

We took one of those brave steps and said, what if we began intentionally expanding into Ireland? I was told that I could explore the opportunity here in Ireland, see what types of things teachers need and want from Edcite.

We started a specific landing page for Irish teachers. On this page we have tried to show that we are beginning to take the steps to make this site even more helpful to the Irish educator. We recognize that Irish teachers are held to the Irish Curriculum and not Common Core, so we have begun to tag assignments specifically with the Irish objectives covered.

Now, this is not at all necessary for any teacher anywhere to use the site. Regardless of where you teach and what you teach—you can use the site. You can search, not by the objective, but by the specific content (e.g. fractions or theme). You can create content on your own and tag it with whatever objective you would like. These steps aren’t designed to make the site accessible to teachers internationally, because frankly, it already is—they’re for improving our site in regards to reducing teacher workload.

My mother took this screenshot of the presentation while watching from California!
My mother took this screenshot of the presentation while watching from California!

I wanted go to this conference in Galway to learn more and open a conversation about how we can improve Edcite to better meet the needs of teachers. I was able to present at the Teach Meet on Friday night. We had the whole night live streaming so other educators could be part of the fun. This also meant my biggest fan, my mother, could watch from California. Throughout the conference, fellow educators engaged with @Edciteteam on Twitter, which was a great experience– I’d recommend everyone join in the fun!

My biggest takeaway from the conference is that there are a ton of people working to do what is best for kids and are open to constantly evolving their practice as technology continues to offer more great resources and opportunities for the classroom. Is Edcite a perfect resource? No, just like anything new, it is evolving based on the feedback we receive. It was great to hear all kinds of feedback so we can continue improving the site to help teachers and students.

These are some of tweets from the conference showing teachers' excitement about Edcite.
These are some of tweets from the conference showing teachers’ excitement about Edcite.

I think it takes courage to decide to expand our focus, but if in the end more people benefit, that certainly sounds like fortune to me. Fortune favours the brave.

Bio PictureJulia Sweeney, although currently working for Edcite in Ireland, is originally from Roseville, CA and went to University of the Pacific. She joined the Teach For America Delta Corps in 2011, where she taught middle school English and American History. She has a passion for education and exploring the vast potential technology offers  education systems, worldwide.

Note to any Irish Teachers: Reach out if you’d like to sit down and go through the site, give any feedback, or brainstorm ways you can use Edcite in your class! You can reach her via email at julia@edcite.com or on Twitter  @juliasween.