Thursday, July 24, 2014

It Takes A Teacher.....A Week Full of Personalized Learning

We are all familiar with the ancient African proverb, "It Takes a Village to Raise a Child," but are you familiar with the the quote, by Deena Zenyk, Marketing Manager, Education Advocacy of SMART Technologies, "It takes a teacher to......."?  I will let you fill in the blank in this sentence; feel free to choose from one of the many words below in the word cloud.  This was the theme at this year's SMART Technologies Global SMART Exemplary Educator (SEE) Summit.

(Words by Deena Zenyk)

As educators, we all know that the responsibilities of teachers have increased steadily over the years.  A teacher is not just a teacher; a teacher is a nurse and/or doctor, therapist, social worker, psychologist, and sometimes, even a parent.  The list goes on and on.  Our students require more TLC and it is our job to give it to them.  In order to teach our students and help them reach their full potential, we need to connect with them, motivate them, encourage them, showing that we truly care as if they are our own children. One of the ways that we can connect with them is by creating highly engaging and interactive lessons as well as creating lessons that are personalized to meet their own academic, social, and emotional needs.  

We educators are just like our students.  We also require personalized lessons that cater to our needs.  That's where professional development comes in.  As educators, we all know that professional development is the key to professional growth.  Unfortunately, it is not easy for many teachers to obtain high quality professional development due to various reasons such as time, money, or lack of the availability.  That's where my amazing experience at the Global SMART Technologies SEE (SMART Exemplary Educator) Summit comes in.  

I had the chance this past week to attend a SMART SEE Summit at SMART Headquarters in Calgary, Alberta, CA.  I truly felt as if I was home.  Through Twitter and other forms of social media, I knew many SEEs virtually, but had not yet met them face to face.  Though educational technology is a great tool to connect and collaborate with others, it does not replace face to face social interaction.  So being able to connect with many other SEEs was an amazing experience alone.  

With regards to professional development, the sessions that were offered to us truly met our professional needs in order to further our professional growth.  These sessions included but were not limited to: meeting with SMART's marketing staff, product developers, product managers, focus groups based on our choosing, hands on activities and demonstrations, and technical support staff.  It was great to meet those technical support members that I have literally spent hours on the phone over the past few years.  I am so indebted to them for putting so much effort into solving various technical problems I have had.  We also had a "virtual" fireside chat with Warren Barkley, CTO (Chief Technology Officer) at SMART and last but not least, the chance to learn from other SEEs on topics such as global collaboration.   We were given time to improve our own skills in teaching as well as submit feature requests on how SMART can better meet our needs and more importantly, our students needs.  I personally had a chance to sit with product developers for a few hours and make feature requests to various SMART products.  Within a couple of days, the product developers had actually brought those ideas I had to fruition.  Now THAT is personalized learning! 

In addition, I had a chance to speak with Greg Estell, President of Education at SMART.  I was amazed how Mr. Estell was so open to listening to my own thoughts and concerns about technology in education and the way that educators need to use technology responsibly in their classrooms.  He was so receptive to what I had to say and followed through on my concerns immediately after I spoke with him.  If only we educators could act the same way with our students!  Imagine how much farther we could go with them!  Now THAT is a SMART Teacher!  

I am truly indebted to SMART and all they have done for me.  SMART has truly changed the way I teach as it has enabled me to redefine my instruction and improve the quality of learning for my students.  As a SMART Exemplary Educator and now as a Director of Educational Technology, not only do I have to improve my teaching, but my goals to personalize the learning for my students (the teachers in my school) and for their students.  

SMART, thank you for all that you have done for me.  It is truly a privilege and an honor to be here connecting and learning together with so many others.  

Now when you hear the quote, "It takes a teacher........," you will know exactly what that means!

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