Jules says -- Gather ‘round TechnoTeachers, to hear what Beth Holland, Communications Coordinator & Instructor at EdTechTeacher has to say about her career as an innovative educator and the insights she has gleaned along the way. Be sure to hear her thoughts on the value of asking “what if?” in her Tedx Talk, “Packing for the Age of Digital Exploration: Beth Holland at TedxMosesBrownSchool.” It’s a winner.
Oh, one other thing. Beth is one of my former Masters students at Harvard. I’m inspired by all she’s accomplished since that time and delighted that we’ve had this opportunity to reconnect.
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TT: Why did you initially decide to become a teacher?
BH: Even in high school, I had a drive to help others learn. I volunteered to tutor middle school students and really enjoyed building those relationships. During college, I worked in the summers as an instructor with an adventure learning program, ActionQuest, and continued to be involved in tutoring programs through Boys Hope/Girls Hope. Entering the classroom ultimately seemed like a logical step.
TT: How did you move from being a classroom teacher to being a consultant / writer?
BH: After my first year as a 9th grade English teacher, I was never really a traditional classroom teacher. I worked as a full-time substitute for a year, then as a government consultant, and finally as the Director of Academic Technology before joining EdTechTeacher. When I moved from a school environment to the EdTechTeacher environment, it had more to do with scale. I really wanted to be able to support a larger group of teachers beyond just one school. I now have the opportunity to travel and learn from educators around the world.
This same drive to make connections and offer support also drives my writing though I’ve loved to write since I was little. In fact, my initial career ambition was to be a Muppet! In January 2011, I broke my leg and spent seven months on the couch. The only way that I could keep contributing and sharing was through writing. I just haven’t stopped since.
TT: How have you gained your following on social media do you think? Top tips?
BH: I find social media and the notion of “followers” to be strange. I honestly have not spent any time trying to build any sort of following. Over the past few years, I’ve used social media as a way to connect to other educators, engage in conversation, and try to be as helpful as possible to other teachers. By sharing resources, writing posts, and answering questions, it seems as though people have decided to follow me. I see that as a really huge responsibility. It means that if I say something via social media, it should have value. I am honored to know that anyone who follows me actually thinks I may have something valuable to contribute to the broader educational conversation.
TT: Why do you think it is important to grow as a teacher / share your ideas with others?
BH: I think that as teachers, we have to model what it looks like to be a good learner. The world is constantly changing and adapting, so as teachers, we need to as well. Additionally, there are always so many new technologies and resources becoming available to make learning even more engaging, dynamic, and fun. It feels almost like professional malpractice to not be trying things out and sharing new discoveries.
TT: Which are the top 3-5 pieces of work you'd like us to share in this blog and why?
BH: That’s a really tough question! I’m proud of the work that I’ve published with Edutopia. It’s exciting to be part of that community because everyone shares a similar passion to support teachers.
I also really like this article on Using Design Thinking to Bridge Theory and Practice with Digital Portfolios because it afforded me an opportunity to reflect on the process of teaching reflection. In a lot of ways, this article shows my growth and shift in thinking about how to teach reflection. I’ve changed a lot of my approaches over the past few months as a result of that experience. In particular, I really focus on the notion of empathy. I try to encourage teachers to experience learning in a similar manner as their students and to consider how their students might choose to demonstrate their understanding.
Finally, I gave a TEDx talk a few years ago. I think I spent more time preparing for those 12 minutes than any other talk I have ever delivered. However, I think it also represents a significant shift in my thinking as it may have been the first time that I crafted a message that got beyond the concept of a single device or platform. In preparing for the talk, I was really inspired by Grant Lichtman’s book, The Falconer. He challenges that beyond asking why, we need to start asking what if? That single notion made me start thinking about the critical skills for success in a digital era because what if students could learn any time and anywhere, what if students could demonstrate their understanding through a number of modalities, what if teachers could virtually transport their students anywhere in the universe… Planning for that talk inspired me to think beyond the immediacy of the technology and towards the potential of teaching and learning.
What shifts in your own thinking have you reflected on, and what are some things you'd like to put into practice in 2016? Let’s hear from you!
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This is where Jules and Nic will post articles, links to interesting sites and things that we think our TechnoTeachers will like.