CHANGING THE WORLD ONE MIND AT A TIME
“Starr Sackstein embodies all that is right with education: She is passionate, engaging, reflective, and, most critically, committed to doing what’s best for kids. I had the privilege of seeing Starr speak. Her message of student empowerment to promote authentic learning and cultivating a truly reciprocal learning environment continues to have a profound impact on my practice. Starr’s experiences and vision make her one of the most thought-provoking and influential leaders in the field of education.”
~ Steve Figurelli, Supervisor of Elementary Education, New Jersey
“I am technology resistant. For years after cell phones became popular, I thought “Why do I need a cell phone? I don’t need to be reachable all the time”. My parents had cell phones before I did. Now, of course, I am as dependant on my phone as everyone else. This is not to say that I am a technology-phobe. I am pretty good at figuring out how things work. At one job many years ago, I taught myself Powerpoint and then taught the office how to use it. For a while, many of my friends would call me when they got new televisions so I could hook everything up for them. So, it’s not that I am afraid to use the tech, I just always think I don’t need it. And I guess I don’t need a lot of it but it sure does make things easier and more efficient.
My quasi-ambivalence towards technology extended into my teaching practice. When I started teaching Powerpoint was in wide use but I was still using overhead projectors and acetate sheets. Usually, the notes were handwritten as were the very basic diagrams of all manner of science topics. I could draw a molecule and had fairly neat handwriting, why did I need technology? When finally I caved and ditched the overhead for the laptop it was like a whole new world of wonder. No more crude drawings depicting plate tectonics. Now I could use professional diagrams and animations. I could share so much more with my students.
When Twitter came on the scene I couldn’t imagine why anyone would care what I had to say in 140 characters and I had no interest in the latest celebrity Twitter feud. The most useful thing Twitter did was help my husband keep score at baseball games so that I was off the hook when he went to the bathroom. Then, at one of our weekly professional development meetings, my friend and colleague, Starr Sackstein told us all about how Twitter could be used professionally. I was intrigued by what she said and excited by new form of communication I could have with my students. I excitedly signed up for an account…then didn’t touch it for years. After a while, I couldn’t even remember my user name.
I took some time off after the birth of my son. When I returned to work I found that I was excited to be back and felt invigorated to try new things (much to my happy surprise). The first week I was back Starr led another professional development on the uses of Twitter. This time I was determined to become a Tweeter! I signed up for a new name (since I had completely forgotten the other one – the new name is ciminiscience) and started tweeting. I decided that I wanted it to be something that my students could access and that I would tweet about science. I shared my user name with my students and happily started tweeting about what we were learning in class, science in news, cool science facts…anything that they might find interesting. This month, for women’s history month, I am tweeting about women in science. So far I only have 28 followers but when one of my students retweets something I have shared or talks to be about tweets I have posted, I feel as though I am helping to fuel the curiosity inside them.
Starr led another technology professional development. This time it was on reflection and using Google forms. By the end of the hour, I was again excited by this new technology. Something I had no use for the day before suddenly seemed like a valuable teaching tool. I immediately started thinking of all the uses – reflections, homework, feedback on assignments, assessments on prior knowledge, take home quizzes. That week Starr and I had an early morning date where she showed me how to create my own form. Right now I am in the process of setting up the forms so that I can use them in my class. The students have become pretty adept at using Google so why not take it one step further? I can’t wait to see how this transforms my teaching practice and helps me become a better and more efficient teacher.
I was slow to adopt many technologies but Starr has, and continues to, show me the light. I am always looking for ways to improve my practice and be better for my students and by helping me embrace many of the technologies that are out there, Starr is giving me the tools I need to get there.”
– Jessica Cimini, Science Teacher