A Timely Gift for The Holidays

‘Tis the season when everyone is looking for the perfect present. Wherever you turn, there are gift ideas for outdoors folks, gourmet cooks, book lovers, animal fans and, of course, tech people.

In our interconnected and fast-paced world, it’s easy to point, click and order something that can be delivered right to someone’s front door. But, if you listen to Dr. Seuss’s Grinch, the best gift comes without ribbons, it comes without tags, it comes without packages, boxes or bags!

The best gift for anyone on your list is the gift of time.

Our students need time to think, to create, to question, to explore. Technology allows us to differentiate our instruction so that students can focus on their personal learning needs. One student may be creating a great presentation with PowerPoint and Photos while another is still searching for the just the right resources to copy into their OneNote. When we allow students the time to work at their own pace, we can more easily focus on those students who need a little more of our time. And when students are responsible for working on their own time, the classroom looks and sounds very different. We need to relax and allow our students time to become comfortable and competent collaborating & communicating.

The casual technology-using teachers we train need time to feel proficient and confident in the new tech they’re learning. We must slow down and instruct them at their pace so they don’t feel frustrated and overwhelmed. The biggest complaint I hear about trainings and deployments is that things go far too fast. We need to check for understanding often, perhaps even showing one step and then walking around the room to make sure all are on the same page. And don’t forget to take the time to smile often or give an encouraging word so our fellow teachers know we are here to help them become proficient, no matter how long it takes.

Our family and friends need to know how much we appreciate their support of our enthusiasm for educational technology. The best gift to give them is your time, without smart phones or tablets or any kind of interconnectivity. Cook and eat delicious food together, challenge each other to exciting board games, tell stories that bring smiles and laughter to all.

Lastly, remember to give yourself a little time to rest, relax and recreate. We push ourselves and our tech to the limit most days of the school year. All too soon, we’ll be back at it after Winter break.

Let the only Tweets you hear be from actual birds outside your window. Let the only creature stirring be you, not a (computer) mouse. Let FaceTime be ACTUAL face time.

Take time to put down the technology and be truly present to those you love.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

What Are Your Borders?

There are many borders to cross as I fly out to Delhi, India, this weekend: The Atlantic Ocean (a natural border), twelve time zones (temporal borders) and airport security checkpoints (safety borders). But the border that has caused me to reflect the most is the one around my comfort zone.

It makes me wonder, what exactly are my personal, emotional, psychological borders?

I’m excited for the journey, especially meeting new, enthusiastic people to learn and share ideas and experiences with as well as build bonds of friendship and understanding. But as I pack outlet adaptors and precautionary medications, I realize spending almost a month in a place halfway around the world away from my family and home is making me a little anxious.

What I know for sure is we don’t learn and grow unless we push ourselves. Arthur C. Clarke said that the only way to define your limits is by going beyond them. Necessity is the mother of invention, so how can you really learn anything if you don’t push past the borders of your own comfort?

The important thing is to keep moving forward, to take that first step.

“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move,” said Anthony Bourdain. “As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.”

The wonderful words of friendship and encouragement I’ve gotten in emails from my two host teachers in Kolkata (and the amazing agenda they have put together for my time with them) remind me that, as Barack Obama said so well, “We are defined not by our borders, but by our bonds.

We must cross over our borders of comfort to discover the world and ourselves. What more could we learn and accomplish if we are fearless?

Please join me on my #FulbrightTGC #GlobalEd journey to India by going to https://whatareyourborders.net and subscribing to my blog!

Building Empathy Through Global Communication & Collaboration!

Thank you so much for joining our session at the CTA Delta Service Council Spring Educators Conference at SJCOE!

As promised, here is the link to my complete presentation (the whole PPT with videos)! I’m so excited for you to begin your journey toward global competency by starting with one small Skype step! If you are interested in anything I mentioned which is NOT in the PowerPoint, please email me at tdunbar@musd.net or use my digits on the card I handed out at the end of our session and let me know what you need!

Please let me know if you’d like me to test your Skype set-up with you! I am always more than happy to be of assistance! Open your classroom to the world through Skype and global collaborations. Let me know if you’d like to be a part of my upcoming global project: “What Are Your Borders?”

Remember, what more could our students accomplish if we were fearless?

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As a teacher, I understand the power of being in a supportive and dynamic professional learning network. I’ve been a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert for five years now, and it’s honestly the most amazing group of educators I’ve ever had the pleasure to collaborate with!

Microsoft has a new series of videos that explain how YOU CAN do some amazing things, and I am proud to be the one who was asked to make the one about how “YOU CAN become a Microsoft Innovative Educator for FREE!” And after you’ve watched that, check out the ENTIRE playlist of things YOU CAN do with Microsoft!

Minecraft and Building Global Empathy

Gathered around a computer, five of my students were having a discussion about what to build in their Minecraft world.

“We should build a bridge because we need to build bridges of understanding with each other,” said one student.

“I want to build a wall around someone to show how some people cut themselves off from the world,” said another.

“Let’s do both of those, and then make people of all colors holding hands because we are all equal,” said the third.

Minecraft used to build empathy and understanding?

Many teachers are uncomfortable teaching something they don’t know frontwards and backwards, which is why teaching with Minecraft has gotten off to a slow start.

Teachers have long considered themselves the sage on the stage. But if we want students to stretch and exercise their communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking skills, we’ve got to become guides on the side – crafting questions and projects that are challenging but attainable and allowing them to use meaningful tools like Minecraft.

When Minecraft is used as a tool to demonstrate knowledge or share ideas, students are first motivated and engaged. But then, their creativity and critical-thinking skills kick in: How can I make this reflect my ideas? How can I share my solution visually? Next comes communication and collaboration, since they work together in these Minecraft worlds: What are the rules for what we do with another person’s work in our Minecraft World? If I show respect for others work, will they return the favor?

But more than just that, Minecraft allows students to share their ideas with the world, and for them to get a glimpse into the world of others.

My students have embraced global Project-Based Learning initiatives like Cultivate World Literacy (http://www.cultivateworldliteracy.com/), Human Differences (http://www.humandifferences.com/), and the Climate Action Project (http://www.climate-action.info/). Students present their findings from these projects in the digital format of their choice, which always includes Minecraft. Using such an engaging and exciting medium sets the stage for students to tackle big questions to become better global citizens and learn from each other.

We are part of a global Minecraft project called the Sustainability Shuffle in which we build a Minecraft village around one of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development goals(http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/). Our village was around Goal Four, a Quality Education, and the class conversations we had to determine what should and shouldn’t be included were fascinating and meaningful.

Using Minecraft, my students have created worlds that reflect how we need to take care of our water, crafted messages of strength to students in countries where sexual abuse is rampant, built walls to tear down and bridges between people to show the importance of building relationships, and designed creative ways to share their love of reading and desire to Cultivate World Literacy.

Teachers must allow their students to use incredible tools like Minecraft to find new ways to express their ideas and reflections with the world. And every student has a gift, a talent, a skill that the world needs – be must help them be fearless and share it with the world.