Sonya Woloshen is a new teacher this year. She is a job-sharing French Immersion teacher at our school 2 days a week, and at another Middle School the other 3 days.

Sonya did a short pro-d session this afternoon with some of our teachers. Her session title: “I took the red pill”.

I took the red pill

She ran through using Powerpoint/Keynote, Screencasts, and podcasts. But time and again her emphasis was not on the technology or the tools, but on the meaningful engagement of students. It was about students learning transferable skills and teaching each other as they learned.

Sonya also highlighted how she and her students use ipods/iTouch/mp3s in her class. Here is her ipod-touch-proposal she made to our Director of IT. She also wrote an article on ipods for CueBC.

For this presentation, she showed the first video here to start things off. Here are a few quotable quotes from her session:

“In 5 years I want to run a paperless class.”

“As a new teacher, I don’t think of it as a issue when one student doesn’t have the technology available. That’s not a problem, just something to work around.”

“I push technology in every project I do, but of course I make it available to my students to do a poster or paper presentation if they want to or if they don’t have the technology available to them at home.”

“What if you don’t know everything? Students love knowing more than you and teaching you.”

Sonya Woloshen

Sonya is a digital teacher. She gets that it isn’t about the technology but about engaging students in meaningful ways. She is brand new and yet ahead of the curve. What I really liked about this presentation was that she didn’t just ‘sell’ technology, she mentioned the challenges too… from her iTouch being stolen (it was returned) to technical issues causing her to load programs on 25 iTouch/ipods only to have to reload 15 of them the next day when students should have been using them. These are not deal-breakers, simply challenges to overcome.

As she talked I thought about how many teachers get fed up with technology and give up. Imagine a teacher going to a photocopier and it doesn’t work, so they say, “That’s it, I’m never using that again!” Or a person getting behind the steering wheel of a car for the first time, struggling, and then never driving again.

What makes Sonya a Digital Teacher is that she sees the value that tech tools offer and she overcomes the challenges they present (fearlessly). Sonya understands the potential of POD’s, and she is starting her career at a point that I had to evolve to:

I’ve seen a real shift in my own thinking recently. Forget whining about access, disregard the slow speed of change, get over the obstacles! Go after meaningful results. Engage and empower students. Be a leader and a role model.   Opportunities, Access & Obstacles

It is exciting and inspiring to see a new teacher, confidently and fearlessly sharing her learning with a group of teachers, who in turn are equally interested in, and engaging with, new teaching and learning practices. Kids today are part of a YouTube Generation and they need digital teachers to help guide and inspire them to be lifelong learners, equiped for a future that I myself cannot truly imagine.

10 comments on “Digital Teachers

  1. What an excellent example of a digital teacher. Thanks for highlighting her work here Dave. She will be an exciting teacher to watch and learn from as she moves forward with her career.

  2. I looked at her website as well, what remarkable ideas for a new teacher. Since I know a quite a bit about how the system of hiring in BC works, my hope is that she will be able to find enough work in the near future to keep up her interest in teaching.

  3. What a great article Dave! Having the privilege and pleasure to teach besides Sonya two days a week, I agree that she is the “beginning” (starting) of a new era in teaching. We are lucky to have her!

  4. I had the good fortune to be the receiver of Sonya’s ipod proposal. I asked her if she could include me one morning in her FI class when kids would be using ipods in an integrated way for their core learning. It was a great experience (a couple of weeks ago). Grade 8 French Immersion… kids started with a lesson involving watching / listening to screen casts that were student / teacher created. They worked individually and in groups sharing ipods, taking notes on grammatical concepts, verb tenses. Some then podcasted into Sonya’s ipod touch so she could evaluate their spoken French.

    They then did a synthesis of a Mideval unit – they grouped around 7 ipod touches, selected topics, and did a 10 minute research on the net, recording key info then a report out to the class.

    Next in preformed groups that did research on various technology topics students presented their findings, did skits, facilitated class discussion and simulation, etc. For example, one groups topic was “does listening to music on your ipod while studying, doing homework enhance or detract the learning” (or something like that), another on the benefits, problems of digital music sharing, a raging ethics debate broke out…

    Anyway, the ipods and ipod touches are great information research, review, consumption, calculating, devices – instant on, instant net connection for touches, easy to share info, etc. The power is in accessibility, cost, instant on/access, etc. in the classroom or wherever the kids may be learning.

  5. Hey Dave!

    I’m in the same frame of mind, but I spend the first half of the year working on the kids routines, and the second I start integrating their POD’s…

  6. I like that Sonya’s focus is not on the technology itself, but on producing meaningful results. Too often I see educators attempting to utilize technology because it is what is “expected”, yet they are unsuccessful in teaching the lesson because they cannot use the technology properly. Thanks for a great blog!

  7. to both of you – huge bravo. the ipod interview brought me here.

    well and then after i found her on twitter – with like 2 tweets – one saying…wondering how i can shake my class up.

    then dave tweets to me…She REALLY has no pre-conceived notions of what a classroom 'should' look like, so she asks herself, What's possible? -Then tries.

    beautiful. what a role model.

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