My Journey to Becoming a Distance Learning Teacher-Leader – Digital Promise

My Journey to Becoming a Distance Learning Teacher-Leader

November 16, 2020 | By

Earlier this year, as schools and districts across the country closed their doors in response to COVID-19, educators looking to continue engaging their students in powerful learning joined us at Edcamp: Powerful Learning at Home—a series of virtual, unconference-style professional development opportunities for educators to support one another in navigating distance learning. In this post, Dr. Tina M. Manus shares how these Edcamps supported her practice and work with other educators, and we look forward to the launch of our next Edcamp: Powerful Learning at Home session on November 21. 

This spring, the whole world changed, including teaching. Never in my life had I needed to manage so many things that seemed to be in constant motion. I kept asking myself: Was I a good teacher? Were my students really learning anything? Would I ever actually hug another person again? Would I ever know the answers to any of these questions?

I sat at home, anxious and pensive, and found refuge in the outdoors, household projects, and, of course, social media. As I scrolled through Facebook, I saw a teacher post about “virtual Edcamps” being offered by Digital Promise. I knew what Edcamps were; I had always wanted to attend one and had actually modeled professional development events in my school after them. I was hungry for learning and connecting somehow with something different. There was a movement happening and I was looking for a way to grow with it and get inspired by it.

I attended the first webinar, excited but not really knowing what to expect. There, I found like-minded educators and sincere, welcoming facilitators from Digital Promise. After the first meeting, I was hooked!

I attended every Edcamp: Powerful Learning at Home session. It became what I waited for, and I marked my calendar so I’d never miss one. I shared invites with friends and colleagues, and in one meeting I even heard a voice I knew—my sister was there!

The notes shared on Padlet were created in each session and became a treasure chest of resources for me and my colleagues as we navigated through this uncharted distance learning universe. Recommendations and suggestions inspired us to try everything from Flipgrid to Bitmoji classrooms. My colleagues were so grateful to find tools that worked, along with ideas and strategies—from actual teachers—that actually worked with real students.

As the 2019–2020 school year came to a close, a request came from a statewide teacher support agency. They were organizing a virtual version of their annual conference and looking for teachers to present digital tools. I remembered what an impact the Padlets we created had on my colleagues, and what an amazing experience I had had attending the Edcamps, so I decided to present.

My session was attended by more than 50 teachers and district leaders. I shared my top resource find, Edulastic, as well as the session resources created by teachers during the Edcamps. Again, teachers were beyond joyful; one remarked, “This is exactly what I’ve been searching for!”

Now, with the 2020–2021 school year underway, I have a toolbox full of amazing resources, and I’m able to have meaningful conversations with colleagues about strategies that work to support 21st century learning. I’ve shared the Edcamp session resources with countless others, including the friends I made as a volunteer for DonorsChoose. The resources and my experience with the Digital Promise Edcamps were shared in a newsletter from DonorsChoose with teachers around the nation, along with helpful hints for distance learning.

I can say, without a doubt, that these experiences changed my teaching for the better and have brought me into contact with so many like-minded colleagues. While the pandemic seemed to thwart every attempt at authentic connections, these experiences were the workaround I needed. The resources I learned about, and the teachers I have met, have made me more confident with powerful digital learning. I am now much more resilient and open to change as well. As a result, I am a better teacher. I feel like I understand my students better, too. I have raised the bar, not just for my students, but for what I expect from myself as a 21st century teacher-leader.

Attend the next Edcamp: Powerful Learning at Home

Edcamp: Powerful Learning at Home is an opportunity for educators from all over the country to support one another, identify and discuss similar challenges, and amplify best practices and resources. Digital Promise is excited to announce our next Edcamp: Powerful Learning at Home on November 21 at 8 a.m. PT/11 a.m. ET. At this event, we invite educators to share their experiences and expertise as they navigate different learning contexts (e.g., remote, hybrid, in-person) and to build community among other educators dedicated to engaging students in powerful learning.

Register for Edcamp: Powerful Learning at Home here.

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