This summer, the DigitalJLearning Network had the pleasure of taking 15 Jewish Day School educators to the 2015 ISTE Conference in Philadelphia, PA. We asked the participants to share what they learned and how the conference inspired them to take action in their schools. Shira Teichman, Math Teacher at The Frisch School, shares her thoughts in the fifth installment in this new blog series.
Although I rarely tweet, I have a Twitter account (@shiraehrlich). My “technology advisor” at Frisch, Rabbi Tzvi Pittinsky (@TechRav), encouraged me to create one and said it would be invaluable for ISTE. It sure was!
On the second day of ISTE, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and saw that Ron Clark (@ronclarkacademy) was going to be making an appearance at the Panasonic booth in the Expo hall. Reading Clark’s book The Essential 55 during my time as a graduate school student had helped me begin to shape my educational philosophy, and I was thrilled at the opportunity to see this passionate educator in person. Fortunately, I had left myself some time around 3:00 that afternoon, and made a beeline for the booth as the time drew near.
A group of ISTE-goers had already gathered and were in chairs, seated on the floor, and hovering nearby by 2:50, many holding smart phones prepared to record the talk. At 3:00, Ron Clark came running into the center of the crowd. He grabbed a nearby chair and jumped up on to the table at the front of the booth. He didn’t need an introduction or to formally introduce himself; I don’t even remember whether he did. What I do remember is his words of advice to us, wide-eyed educators who had all flocked to Philly to enhance our educational techniques through technology.
Of course, Clark made sure to thank Panasonic for their support and for providing so much technology at his Academy. But he also said that, as educators, we need to remember how to TEACH - even without technology as our aid! We need to make eye contact with our students so that they recognize the importance we are attaching to what we’re saying. We need to use our arms - preferably raising them above our chests (which is medically healthful) - to show and elicit a sense of engagement. We need to ensure that our feet face our students even as we write on boards to emphasize to ourselves and our students our constant focus on them. And we need to smile as we teach, since it’s been proven that children (and teens are still kids) are more receptive to what they’re told when it’s told to them with a smile.
After a quick selfie with Ron Clark, I left the Expo hall feeling rejuvenated. All of the cool apps, programs, and technological initiatives that I had heard and continued to hear about over the conference were exciting and I am looking forward to incorporating them (albeit in baby steps) into my math classroom. But the messages of the art of teaching and the potential a teacher has to not just teach but to have an impact on students - that resonated with me and was a stark reminder that technology cannot replace good teaching, it can merely enhance it.