I attended the 2022 TCEA Convention in Dallas, Texas, this past week and had the time of my life. Put me in a room with other educators who are as passionate about pedagogy, educational technologies, and students, and I'm in my happy place. Add to that an exhibitor's hall full of a plethora of Edtech companies from all over the nation and world, and I'm walking on clouds. Seeing my friends from social media platforms in person, face to face again, was the icing on the cake.
Recently, my fourteen year-old son had to pitch for his high school varsity baseball team against the best team on the schedule. He's just a freshman, and pitching isn't his passion or any of the positions that he practices regularly outside of actual baseball practice. However, with the pitch count and rest rules, every team needs as many pitchers as they can scrounge.
One of the greatest advantages of today’s technology is the power of connection. If we weren’t aware of it before the Covid19 pandemic, we are now. As a teacher in a rural Missouri high school, I always look for ways to expand the world for my students. Our community is small and is very supportive of our students, and while I bring in guest speakers from the community each year and value what they can offer my students, technology allows me to broaden our definition of community.
Students develop a sense of belonging when they feel accepted, respected, included, supported and see themselves as important members of a community. I knew esports has the power to reach those students who normally slip through the extracurricular cracks, so when my good friends, Jeff and Elizabeth Wofford, approached me about starting an esports club and team at school this year, I didn’t hesitate, because I believe that helping students connect and belong at school improves overall school culture.
As educators, we know how important family is to student success, and having been remote learning at home for three months, a summer at home feels the same as school — the role of parents as teachers may have even strained the family dynamic a bit. Even if you can’t go on a big vacation, we know students and families need renewal, change, and to just recharge after a tough end to the school year. Now that thoughts of vacation for many of us have bubbled to the surface, we face another challenge.
As our 2020 second semester turned into distance learning during the Covid19 pandemic, many of us found ourselves overturned in the middle of the creek, clinging to a paddle with one arm slung across the canoe to keep our heads above the water. But now that summer is upon us, we have been able to upright our canoe, toss in both paddles, and climb back into it. While the direction we will be taking this fall is still unclear, we can look back at what worked and what didn't during the school closures. There were definitely many things we did not do well, but we did shine in one particular area: connecting guardians and our school remotely.