For the month of April, I am participating in the Blog A Day Challenge for educators. All prompts are provided by Meredith Towne (@BklynMeredith), an educator from New York.
Instead of writing to the prompt today, I’m writing something of an ode to my district and an ed tech conference.
I can’t remember the first year I went to the Nebraska Educational Technology Association (NETA) conference–I think it was 2010. What I do remember is how deflated I felt by the end of the two-day tech-fest.
So much of what I saw I knew I could not do in my classroom–not because I was unwilling, but because at the time, my district just lacked the infrastructure, hardware, and software to do the innovative ideas shared at NETA.
I went two consecutive years, and then I stopped going–I was teaching AP Lang and Comp and the conference fell too close to the test date. I felt like I was abandoning my students, attending two days of sessions in which I might find one idea I could shoehorn into the resources available to me. It just wasn’t worth it.
Fast forward five years.
Oh, how things have changed. This impresses me, this hindsight, because in my personal life I feel like life pretty much stays the same. Last year I returned to NETA as a presenter. It was a completely different experience than my first. When I attended sessions, my mind raced with how I could implement the ideas in my own classroom. Excitement replaced discouragement. Possibility replaced unlikelihood.
Public schools have become an acceptable prejudice; be as unfoundedly critical of your local school district, and few–if any–will come to the district’s defense. I’m not saying my district is perfect. But the technological changes I’ve seen in the past five years instill a hope that I never thought I’d feel. We have a much improved network. We have rover carts in most classrooms. Some teachers (myself included) have iPad carts.
Sure, I have days where YouTube doesn’t work or my entire Mac lab loses internet (both of these things happened today), but most of the time, I can troubleshoot and get things running again, I know who to ask for help, I’m able to do what I want to do–and that includes trying new things.
I get to go to NETA again this year, but this time as a journalism adviser. NETA reached out to local high school journalists and invited them to the conference. So I’m accompanying my Editor-in-Chief, co-Editor-in-Chief, and Managing Editor to NETA. They have researched story ideas, developed interview questions, and contacted sources. I will attend a handful of sessions, but my primary responsibility is to advise them as they work on their stories. I’m excited for the opportunity they have to see passionate educators collaborating and learning how to create more engaging classrooms.
The best part is knowing that in the sessions I attend, I will not feel hopeless. Yes, change is often slow in the realm of public service, but I am encouraged by the increased support and resources dedicated to improving educational technology in my district. It’s not perfect, but it’s change for the better.