Saturday, March 22, 2014

New Teachers and Talking Technology

The past few days on Twitter have been extremely challenging for me. The majority of my Professional Learning Network (PLN) departed for the Palm Springs Annual Cue Conference on Wednesday. They then spent the next 72 hours listening to amazing keynote speakers, being inspired by various session presenters, and having hundreds of informal educational conversations on how to augment the learning of today's students. Many of their discoveries were then shared via Twitter, providing those who could not attend with a glimpse of the past weekend and just enough jealousy to last until the Fall Cue Conference.

While there were more than a few reasons why I couldn't fit the weekend trip to Palm Springs into my schedule, the main reason was my desire to attend today's Teacher Recruitment Fair (TRF) at the Santa Clara County Office. I've attended for the past three years along with various other administrators in my district. At the TRF, you have a chance to meet eager individuals who could one day join your staff. In fact, I've met more than a few now-hired Union Middle teachers at this event; it's a great place to start the conversation, sometimes rather informally, with prospective employees.

At the TRF, I've found that there are usually four types of teacher participants. First, you have your "I'm finishing my student teaching this semester" individuals. They are often, but not always, just a few years removed from college and quite eager to start in their own classroom. Second, you have your "I just moved to the area from Texas/Colorado/Florida" group. These individuals usually have spouses who have relocated to the Bay Area and are experienced, talented educators. Third, you have your "I've had my teaching credential but just haven't landed in the right spot" contingent. These educators often have unique stories and are just looking for that one chance to prove they're the right fit for your school. Last, you have the "currently employed but just looking..." subset. Often, these individuals won't attend a TRF but may choose to with the intent on speaking with one or two key districts on the possibility of jumping to a new school.

Collectively, it was one of the most impressive groups of educators I've had the pleasure of speaking with. Many of the conversations centered around how other schools are implementing (or fighting not to implement) Common Core and the difficulties therein. As I stood listening to the various stories, I quickly scanned numerous amazing letters of references about the capabilities and talents of the applicants. There was only one thing that was missing from the majority of the conversations and applications today: examples of blended classrooms and how these applicants integrate technology into their daily practice.

Perhaps it's the specifics of the various groups; after all, many of them have only student-taught in the past. Perhaps it's their lack of opportunities to attend CUE-like conferences. Out of the 30-40 candidates I spoke with today, only two applications mentioned anything Google, one of whom just mentioned they enjoy using Google Forms as a hobby. The other application was stacked with examples of instructional technology, conferences attended, and presentations held. Perhaps not surprisingly, this candidate was at the top of my list for any future openings at our school.

So why aren't more teacher applicants highlighting their experiences and talents with technology in the classroom? An educator who can speak confidently about incorporating technology, whether it's 1:1 ChromeBooks, the participation recording of Class Dojo, or student-created Weebly websites, is an educator who administrators will want on their staff. Almost every teacher I spoke with today was very confident about teaching within their subject area. Assuming they all are, what separates one applicant from the next? It's how you deliver the content and how you encourage your students to explore in the classroom. Technology (and the professional development therein) is the key.

My advice for all current and future teacher applicants: Attend the Google PlayDates. Look into local (and perhaps not too local) EdCamps. Sign up for GAFE. Show up at  BrewCue and talk shop. Get a Twitter account and expand your PLN... And perhaps most importantly, don't get left behind when CUE 2015 rolls around. You can follow it on your new Twitter account, but trust me... It won't be the same.

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