Back from paternity leave...and inspired

I'm back from paternity leave...A "motivational speaker" today gave me reason to pause for a few hours and come back with a fresh outlook.

Today was my first day back from paternity leave. My girl is only three weeks old, so I'll be taking off days here and there and working from home whenever possible through the holidays, but I'm back. Budgets, Joomla rollouts, SIS updates, and SIF integration projects are all hollering almost as loudly for my attention as my daughter at dinner time (for a little thing, she sure can put away the milk). However, on my first day back, I left the work alone for a bit and just listened to a speaker we had in the district for a professional development day.

Usually, I'm the one in the back of the room on PD days with my laptop, trying to fit in a bit of extra work time, half listening to the presenter. Or I'm the one presenting. Today, the lack of a handy power plug and a truly engaging speaker conspired to make me listen. I'm glad I did.

Not originally being from an educational background, I hadn't heard of Richard Lavoie until our professional development committee floated the idea of bringing him to speak. Dr. Lavoie is probably best known for his F.A.T. City program, designed to place parents and educators into the shoes of kids with learning disabilities trying to function in school and elsewhere.

Today, though, he talked about his research on motivation. Although his focus remains special education, the concepts he addressed were broadly applicable to students of all abilities and even to educators.

I won't give away any of the great nuggets of information and food for thought he gave us over the course of the day. Suffice to say, though, that he was an incredible public speaker with a powerful message. While that's all well and good, though, how does this relate to Ed Tech? Because our job as educators, as Dr. Lavoie pointed out, is to motivate students to learn. Here in Ed Tech, we're lucky enough to be able to provide tools with which the vast majority of our students connect, and in which they can find real motivation.

We give inquisitive students tools for further investigation, social students the tools to work easily with their peers, struggling students the tools to work at their own pace, and so on. Our niche in education is not just about making sure that the computers work and the Internet is accessible. Rather, it's to make sure that an entire toolkit is available for teachers to reach a highly heterogeneous population with many needs and requirements that can be difficult for a single teacher to satisfy in a classroom.

Technology provides anonymity for students who don't feel like they can participate in class, asynchronicity for students who can't move at the pace of some of their peers, and engaging approaches to learning. Students with memory or cognitive deficits can look up what they need to know rather than fail at memorization. Students who struggle to write can use mapping tools, editing features, and peer review. You get the point, I hope.

Dr. Lavoie's talk was a perfect segue into the second half of my year and a return from leave. Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of just putting out brushfires, we forget that what we do matters in education. What we do isn't just about making sure that Mrs. Jones can print or Mr. Smith has a new bulb for his projector. What we do has the potential to motivate diverse learners and help all of our students find success.