I was walking down the street the other day when I ran into two people who used to make me smile everyday! One of them was a paraprofessional (I’ll call him Superman) who I had the privilege of working with for two years. The other (I’ll call her Wonder Woman) was a paraprofessional who I got very close with but sadly did not get the chance to share a classroom with. Superman was a role model for me in his ability to develop strong relationships with his students, yet always focus on fostering maximum independence. Wonder Woman’s dedication and selflessness made her a major inspiration for me while I was developing my teaching practice. Seeing them reminded me that I have not yet written about the power of paraprofessionals.
Sadly, so many teachers have had negative experiences working with paraprofessionals. I lucked out because in my first few years of teaching, I worked at a school that had some incredible paras. I spent three years as a special education teacher in an inclusion program for students with motor impairments. Each year I worked with a team of between 5 and 8 adults. The team was comprised of two teachers, at least one student teacher and 3-5 paras. While this could be overwhelming at times, building a community of adults was such a valuable force in the classroom. It gave children a chance to work with various adult personalities and it made our teaching stronger. Building a strong team takes work though!
Sometimes paraprofessionals are assigned to a classroom to offer support all of the students, but many paras are assigned to support a specific student. As a teacher it is important that you understand your paras role. Is it to support one or all students? Is it to assist a student with mobility, health or academics? These are the questions that a teacher needs to ask!
If you work with a para who is assigned to one specific child, don’t ask or expect them to be an assistant teacher…let them focus so that they can be successful at their job! It would be like asking a second grade teacher to teach one section of eighth grade science during their lunch break. We see the most growth when we are given the opportunity to focus. Whether you are working with a para for one student or all students, it is crucial to develop a respectful relationship and to make sure that you offer the guidance they need to be successful. Here are some tips to building a great relationship with your para(s):
I’m not going to stand here and say every paraprofessional is a miracle worker. That would be like saying ever teacher is a superhero and regrettably, that is not true. However, there are paraprofessionals out there who are miracle workers in the right environment. As teachers it is our job to nurture the adult relationships in our classroom communities and to do whatever we can to support those around us.
In June, I will be attending the NMC Summer Conference at MIT and could not be more excited. Being surrounded by such cutting edge minds makes me dream a little bigger and think further outside the box. Not to mention, I’ll finally get to see the MIT Media Lab, which has been a super dorky dream of mine for quite awhile. If you haven’t registered yet, here are 10 reasons why you should!
Take special note of #10. “It’s the convening of the tribe. You’ve been to the conferences populated by tens of thousands of people where name badges are survival items. The annual Summer Conference fosters a close-knit community — the beach bonfire of conferences. Even if you’re a first-timer, the NMC community welcomes you and your insights with open arms. As much as we are all EdTech enthusiasts, we recognize that it is truly you, the people, that makes the impact.” (Taken from NMC.org)
This is no joke…the NMC community has been so friendly and welcoming! I recently spoke with Samantha Adams from the NMC who was awesome! She had a wealth of information about the organization and the NMC Summer Conference. During our conversation, she told me all about the NMC Horizon EdTech Weekly App (available for iPad and iPhone), which I downloaded about a few weeks ago. It is a pretty exciting app mostly because it makes our industry feel more legitimate…EdTech has a serious App now people! The App is quite simple to navigate and offers a few important features including:
Staying on top of cutting edge EdTech can be exhausting so my favorite feature is the top 10 EdTech stories of the week. It is simple, concise and keeps me up to date. Each piece has a snapshot-like abstract so that I can get an idea of the topic before committing to reading it in its entirety. Next up on Deck: The App is being updated and will have some pretty cool new features. Firstly, the K-12 Horizon Report will be available and it is the only place you can get it before June 14. Also, the Top 10 EdTech Stories will be categorized, making it easier to navigate and digest.
The App is $2.99 and you should buy it if you are an EdGeek like me, a student, teacher, parent or entrepreneur interested in technology for education. Click here for a sneak peak inside the App, including screen shots.
Are you going to the NMC conference? Reach out, I’d love to hear from you!
I hope you all enjoyed the long weekend. I had a family-filled week of engagement excitement. Last week, one of my pieces was featured on EdVoices.com so I figured I would share it on EdGeeks today for those of you who have not read it. The piece is near and dear to my heart as it approaches an issue that is often neglected: teachers who don’t feel comfortable using technology. A special shout out to EdVoices, one of my go-to sites for great ed news!
-MarisaHere is my latest guest blog piece for EdVoices!
I left the classroom in September to pursue my interest in education innovation and technology. It saddens me that I had to leave the classroom to pursue these interests but while I was in the classroom, I found myself overloaded with responsibilities. At points I felt that my teaching practice was confined to my city, my school, or worse, the four walls of my classroom. I just didn’t have the time to think outside of my city, or to learn new things and that was starting to scare me. It has been an interesting journey filled with education conferences, Skype sessions with teachers across the country, and talks with various EdTech startups. One of the key ideas I have learned through my research over the past few months is that there is a great divide between EdTech entrepreneurs and educators. The essential question I find myself asking all the time is: “How can we merge the two?”
There are two kinds of teachers today, the tech guru and the tech terrified. During the first panel at the NY EdTech Mashup on April 30th, Rhena Jasey exemplified the exact teacher that entrepreneurs need to target: the tech terrifiedteacher. Many educational events appeal to educators who are already interested in technology. What about the larger population of teachers who live in fear of it?
Rhena shared about how intimidating and overwhelming it was to be in a room full of “techies.” The idea of incorporating technology into the classroom is daunting for teachers like Rhena, who have never had an office job or been expected to use technology to boost efficiency. I know this because I was one of these teachers for a long time. I lived in fear of Smartboards and the laptop cart because I knew that even the smallest malfunction could throw off my lesson, leading to potential chaos amongst my students. I felt incredibly frustrated when an admistrator asked me to use a new website, software program or device in my classroom.
Over the past two years, I have gone through a transformation process. Luckily, I feel much more comfortable in the tech space these days, but I haven’t forgotten the tech terrified teacher-friends I have left behind, and I want to do everything I possibly can to support them. Being a great teacher looks very different in the 21st Century and there is no reason that as our world evolves, our teachers can’t evolve with it. That doesn’t mean “no more pencils or crayons,” but it does mean finding a place for using technology to captivate students. As always, balance is the key.
5 Tips for the Tech Terrified Teacher
5 Simple Tech Tools for the Tech Terrified Teacher: A starting point
Until we actively start addressing the discomfort that teachers like Rhena feel in the edtech space, we will not be successful in moving our teachers or students into the 21st Century. We need to work on finding ways to support the teachers who feel intimidated by technology so I’ll end with two questions:
1. Dear Tech Terrified Teachers: What can we do to support you?
2. Dear EdTechies: How do you do outreach to tech terrified teachers and engage them?
Hello Friends and Fellow EdGeeks,
I could not be more excited to share that this Saturday Bryan and I got engaged! We will be taking the week to celebrate and embrace this special time in our lives. I will be back on Tuesday, May 29th. Have a wonderful week and a relaxing Memorial Day Weekend. See you soon.
Off to Smile
I’ll keep it short and sweet…no pun intended:) If this photo is not enough to inspire you to engage in the conversations surrounding standardized testing, I don’t know what will.5-16-12 Guest Blog on EdGeeks: Flashcard Learning
Isabell Collet, creator of Flashcards Guru guest blogs for EdGeeks! She shares helpful tips to support teachers and parents when using flashcards with children. Thanks Isabell!
EdVoices is one of my go-to resources for fresh perspectives on education. I am so grateful that they share my work in their technology section. If you don’t check EdVoices everyday, you are missing out. This week, my letter to edtech entrepreneurs was published. Thanks for featuring my work this week EdVoices!
This piece was written as a guest blog post for the technology section of EdVoices, one of my favorite resources for fresh perspectives on education. Thanks for having me EdVoices! Show your love by leaving a comment on EdVoices.com.
Dear EdTech Entrepreneurs,
Bringing education into the 21st Century is no easy feat. It depends on collaboration between the major players in the field of educational innovation and technology, and at this time the collaboration is not where it needs to be. Please take a moment to note that the terms “innovation” and “technology” appear separately because they are not interchangeable. While technology may support educators, innovative education is not solely dependent on technology. In fact, innovative teachers use a balance of tech and non-tech supported teaching and learning. For the purpose of this conversation, I want to shift the focus to the industry of educational technology.
Two major players in the field of EdTech are entrepreneurs and educators. There is a great divide amongst these two parties, and it grows every time an entrepreneur builds a product without teacher input or feedback. Individuals who have not set foot in a classroom for years, are developing solutions for problems which they assume exist for teachers. Many startups build their products and ask for teacher feedback after the fact. I propose that we reverse the cycle. Startups should call upon teachers (or even students, imagine that!) to support the development of products for the classroom. This will move us toward building stronger technologies for learning that are actually practical for the classroom. Not to mention, getting teachers invested in the beginning can help raise awareness about products that are strong. Remember, teachers listen to teachers!
I appreciate the enthusiastic nature of entrepreneurs in our field. We need that kind of proactive energy and “can do” attitude in education right now. I am optimistic that our industry will begin to look more like a partnership over the next few years. While the collaboration is not yet where we need it to be, some organizations are taking steps in the right direction.
Teachers have taken a lot of flack for the state of the educational system. I will be the first one to admit that our standards for teachers is not where it should be, however that does not mean that great teachers don’t exist. We need to invite strong teachers to share their voices and opinions on:
In the productive spirit of entrepreneurs, I now want to tackle the question, “So, what can be done to solve this problem?”
Recognizing the divide between entrepreneurs and educators is the first step toward building a bridge. The second step is to study edtech projects that have been successful in engaging teachers and to identify what has led to their success. Click here to take a look at a technology that is bringing learning into the 21st Century by paying close attention to what makes teachers comfortable. Think about how this product can be used as a model for emerging technology for learning.
Your Fan and Teacher-Friend,