Name: Steven Anderson (@web20classroom | EdTech blog)
Organization: Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
Current title: District Instructional Technologist
Selected accolades: NOW Award Winner, Winner of the 2009 Edublogs Educational Twitterer of the Year, #140Conf Character, ASCD 2011 Conference Scholar
What is the best part of your job?
I have the opportunity to learn, grow, and share everyday. Part of my job is to spend time looking through instructional resources and seeing if they have a practical place in the classroom. So I get to play, a lot. I get to discover new tools and applications that can make a huge difference in student learning.
I also get to spend a lot of time talking to administrators about what it means to be a 21st Century Leader. I work with them on technology integration and technology leadership. All in all, I am pretty luck I get to do what I do each day.
What do you miss the most about classroom teaching?
The students. I don’t get to have as much interaction with them as I used to but every opportunity I get to go to a school and talk and work with students, I do it. I have so much to learn…and students are a big part of my learning. I like to see what they are doing and how they are using the tools that we put in front of them to create new and different things.
Do you think technology will play an integral part in any true educational reform that is to come in the US?
I think we are already there. Technology is a tool that the students can use to have a huge impact on their learning. But it is just that, at tool. I think some get so wrapped up in the “wow” factor of Web 2.0 and social media tools that they forget they are tools. Content is king and that should be the focus. As for reform, promoting great access to technology in all schools should be a consideration for anyone calling them a “reformer.” We need a level playing field in every school and that means equal access.
What skill(s) do you feel are most important for today’s students to explore in academic settings (tech or non-tech related)?
The biggest skill we all need is evaluation of our resources. For the longest time there wasn’t much talk about this. If a student wanted to do a research project, they went to their library or media center, cracked open an encyclopedia or a book and got their information. It was assumed that the information presented there was correct and accurate.
Now we all have access to vast amounts of information and for many it’s overwhelming to know where to even begin. We all need to know how to evaluate the resources we come in contact with (print/non-print, digital/non-digital) on a daily basis. Take Wikipedia for example: to me it is one of the best examples of crowd-sourced knowledge that we have, but it is often dismissed as a hack of a resource. Not true! It isn’t the stopping point. Rather it is a starting point. Scroll to the bottom of any article there and you find sources. Follow those sources and find out if information presented in the article is true and accurate. That can then lead you to more primary sources that lead you to more and so on. We have to be critical of the information we absorb each day, no matter the source.
For a teacher looking to use technology to connect with students, enhance learning or embrace 21st century skills, where do you suggest one begin?
I get asked this question a lot and the answer depends on the person. For some, Twitter is a great way to jump into the real-time stream of information. For others it might be a social network like the EDU PLN Ning or Classroom 2.0. The key here is to get connected. Our classrooms cannot remain islands. Teachers have to look beyond their walls and connect with other educators to learn and share and grow, together. So do as much reading and listening as you can. Go to PD that talks about getting connected. If you can find that PD in your own place, then you can get that PD in many online spaces.
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