When I first started teaching differently through the use of technology and new literacies in the English classroom, it wasn’t pretty. I made a lot of mistakes, most of which served as entertainment for the tech-savvy students in my classes. Elliott, one of the more talented – and perhaps surly, students in the group that first semester, worked with me before school, during lunch, after school – all moments where he feverishly sought to “teach the teacher” (with great glee and delight). At the end of the school year (while I was nowhere near a place where I’d made meaning out of all we’d experienced together, he left a sign for me on my window-sill, reading “techie” – a term I’d teasingly called him and a gift that I valued more than I do my diplomas.
I’ve kept that sign hanging in my classrooms and offices since.
Last week, a graduate student in the program I run stepped into my office, read that sign and offered, “what a cool sign! You are a teach-ie, aren’t you?”
I looked up, surprised by his misread – and halfway wondering if it was deliberate. And, as it popped around in my brain for a minute, I realized that I liked this way of reading the sign much better. Techie infers technology junkie who always has the newest and greatest tool/gadget (which likely fits me as I write this using a MacBook Air with an iPhone sitting to the right of it and Tweetdeck in the background so I’m still “in touch”). “Teach-ie” communicates the kind of critical inquiry, questioning and thinking that I think marks my new work. The “teach-ie” in me wants to push against boundaries and work harder to really see the ways kids come to us multiply literate — and to find ways that we can all communicate, navigate and work smarter amidst the rapid change around us. The “teach-ie” is also constantly learning, keeping up with the smart thinkers in my network, lurking over their shoulders by sharing links through tools like delicious, and sharing back through my participation in ning communities and other virtual spaces. I learned how to be a “teach-ie” by watching the practices of my teachie heros (Joyce, WIll, Darren, Clarence, Ewan, Bud and so many others).
So, a question that I’m “kicking around” – what is a better term for what we really do?
Man, I hate new terms. But I like this one. Too much tech instruction and implementation happens without thoughtfulness. Actually, too much of all education, tech or not, happens that way. I need to think more about your label and how to better describe and define the work that I think we, and many others, are trying to do. Paul Allison argues that there’s a new discipline in here somewhere. I don’t know about that, but I’m thinking about it.