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Building Relationships With Colleagues and Students in a High-Tech World


I recently conducted a teacher engagement survey, and some of the most telling findings are that 42 percent of teachers say they are most engaged through face-to-face learning, while more than a quarter (27.1%) of the respondents said they prefer to learn from home.

Technology can be used to help bridge these two requests in a way that nurtures relationships between teachers and builds community among colleagues.

It is no coincidence that many of the strategies that engage teachers also engage students as well. In my earlier research on student engagement, many students cited technology as  a preferred way to build knowledge and skills and develop relationships with teachers. So how can we combine technology and one-on-one interactions in a way that engages us and our students? Consider these possibilities:

For Teacher Learning

Throw a learning potluck party. Invite a colleague who specializes in a certain teaching tool or pedagogical strategy to speak at your home on a weekend. Invite some other educators over and ask everyone to bring food to share. Everyone will benefit from the learning and conversation that follows. It’s kind of like a TED Talk in your living room!

Have a “hallway” chat on Twitter. Thousands of educators have taken to Twitter to exchange ideas about important topics—from Project Based Learning (#pblchat) to Postive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (#pbischat), and more. And educators are one of the fastest growing groups on Twitter. According to Brett Baker, an account executive at Twitter. com, “Out of the half billion tweets that post every day, 4.2 million are related to education … To put this in perspective, while you read this sentence, over 3,000 edu-related tweets have flown across the Twitterverse. So join in the conversation!

For Student Learning

Use video chat. This gives students an opportunity to experience synchronous learning from their living rooms. That could mean attending office hours, asking questions, bouncing ideas around, or listening to live group discussions, rather than pre-recorded screencasts or webinars,

Arrange online intervention classes for after school. In my experience, some kids function more bravely online than in the classroom. If we are asking our students to think deeply and critically, maybe allowing them to do so from the comfort of home will give their brains more freedom to process.

Think about the methods of engagement that help you learn and ask yourself if they might work for your students too. After all, we are all learners.

Heather Wolpert-Gawron is a teacher at Jefferson Middle School in San Gabriel,
Calif., and the author of Just Ask Us: Kids Speak Out on Student Engagement.



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