The First “Aha!” What’s Your Tech Autobiography?

Working_Draft-final-logoDo you ever have flashbacks to moments in a classroom where something transformative happened? You sort of understand, in the moment’s memory, that a shift has occurred – although it can often take time for the realization to actually settle in.

In a recent professional development session that I was co-facilitating, we had a large group of educators using the Edmodo social networking space for the very first time, both as a way to build a professional learning community and to explore its potential to offer writing spaces for students.

This cohort of teachers had a fair number of folks who were openly wary of technology, so I pulled out a writing prompt for them that sought to make multiple connections. They were asked to write their “technology autobiography,” reflecting on a moment in time when they first brushed up against digital media or technology in a way that made a lightbulb come on in their heads.

It turns out, we all have those moments. Their answers ranged from memories of using Logos programming tools in elementary school — to throwing up their hands in frustration when a college professor insisted they use technology but never explained how or why — to the first moment their fingertips swiped over a tablet screen.


My own technology story

I also had a story to tell, and this is what I shared that day.

It was the mid-1990s and I was standing in a third grade classroom when a shriek burst forth from one of the smallest girls in the room. She was standing by the only computer in the class, pointing to the small screen.

“It’s Mr. M.,” she called out, and students rushed forward to crowd around the computer. They jostled one another to get a better look. “He sent us mail!”

Mr. M. was a science teacher at the city’s middle school, but he owned a house in Costa Rica where he was currently on academic sabbatical. Mr. M. was doing research on the migration of Monarch butterflies. Before he left the U.S., he made contact with various elementary school teachers and students, and he regularly emailed them updates on his adventures and his butterfly investigations. Students used this information as data for their own understanding of science.

monarch-200At the time I was a newspaper reporter covering education for a major newspaper in Western Massachusetts. Standing in that third grade classroom, I experienced one of those singular moments when the merging of technology and education suddenly seemed like a true possibility. The excitement generated by a few lines of text was undeniable, and it was clear that technology had the capacity to break down geographic lines. Suddenly, for those students, Costa Rica wasn’t so far away.

Since then, I have moved into teaching myself and created online writing spaces for my sixth graders. I’ve noticed again and again the power in the connections being made between writers and readers, and how audience can transform writing.

I blog on a personal level, too, and I have found that this experience has given me a different voice that allows me to move through my interests such as music, writing, poetry and curiosity. I’ve added podcasting and videocasting to the mix and found that the multi-media elements of this technology give me avenues of expression that weren’t there before.

I am not sure if technology is changing who I am as a writer, but it has certainly given me more creative outlets to explore and discover. And what I learn on my own, I bring back to my classroom and to my network of teachers.

I am not sure what the future holds for technology and writing, but I am ready and willing to explore it all.

That’s my tale, so far. What’s your “technology autobiography”? Share your moments here with us as a comment or write in your own space and share the link.

Kevin Hodgson

Kevin Hodgson is a sixth grade teacher in Southampton MA and outreach coordinator for the Western Massachusetts Writing Project. An aspiring writer and former newspaper journalist, Kevin believes that all students are writers and that writing is one of the most fundamental means of understanding the world. His views around literacy include interaction within the digital world, meeting students on common ground, and helping them make the shift from passive consumers to active creators and collaborators. He is a co-editor of Teaching the New Writing: Technology, Change and Assessment in the 21st Century and blogs regularly at Kevin’s Meandering Mind. He can also be found on Twitter as @dogtrax.

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