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How do we get students to engage with tech?  How do we get those young smiles to shine like they are in the picture above?  How do we get a community to thrive on risk-taking?

We take the first step.

Teachers often want their students to embrace technology.  The key is to take the leap for yourself.  How can we hope for a community of bloggers, or a network of innovation without engaging with online thinking ourselves?

Teachers need to be out on the trail, trialing with ideas.  If I want my students to connect with other bloggers, I need to have experienced that for myself.  Do I need to be the best blogger in the world?  Do I need the most amazing banner and 10,000 hits on my page?  No, but I do need to a footprint on the path I’m asking them to venture out on.

Recently my school hosted an in-house PD two-day workshop session.  I lead a workshop on blogging and a workshop on visual note taking.  We didn’t talk theory, we didn’t sit back and passively consume what those tools can do for our classrooms.  We blogged (on paper) and we took visual notes.  How did that feel?  Uncomfortable for some, and engaging for others.  Tools are meant to be put to use, and if it means we grumble or put on our confused face for a bit, that’s ok.  If you are interested more in visual note taking (stop whatever you are doing and follow @itsallaboutart), I would love your feedback on my slides, available here.

What I like about the 21 Things 4 Teachers site is that it doesn’t theorize the role of tech in our classrooms, rather, it serves as a menu: taste and try. You won’t like everything on the menu, and that’s not the point.  The point is to play, to pause (reflect), and to push forward.  Schools need this PPP model (did I just make that up?)

I have to give a huge shout out to John McBryde, the amazing director, visionary, leader.  He got the PPP model in a big way.  I was amazed at how devoted he was to the concept of sandboxing.  As an educator, I have never found innovation to be more valued than when I worked with John.  He knows that great things happen in learning environments where ‘tinkering’ is given time.

In essence, whenever you upskill yourself as an educator, the next question is inevitably:  now what?

The answer?  Try it out for yourself.  Make learning personal, and see if the hat fits for you.  We need more school leaders like John McBryde, more administrators who teach their teachers to take the leap.  We have to be the model first.  We don’t have to be the experts, but we do have to showcase a love for tinkering.

Perhaps asking, as Angela Maiers does here: what happens when our classrooms are driven by passion? is the real question we are asking when we are asking how to better integrate tech.

Before we apply to our classrooms, we need to apply ideas to our own experiences.  No one does this better than Jane Ross (@janeinjava).  Her blog is available here.

Jane Ross is one of the most passionate educators I have ever worked with.  She tinkers, trials, plays, takes risks, and does it all again.  I’ve been following her online in her latest efforts to teach herself to do amazing things with yarn.  She demands creativity from her students, but rightfully so, Jane demands it of herself first.  Jane and John are incredible ‘passion-modelers.’  They are respected by teacher communities far and wide.  They allowed their classrooms to be driven by passion.