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NEA News

How to Find Human Connection in a High-Tech World

How technology can help you build connection with colleagues and students.
Published: 01/08/2020

The results are in! My teacher engagement survey is “hot off the press,” and some of the most telling findings are that 42 percent of teachers say they are most engaged through face-to-face learning, while more than a quarter (27.1%) of the respondents said they prefer to learn from home. Technology can be used to help bridge these two requests in a way that nurtures relationships between teachers and builds community among colleagues.

It is no coincidence that many of the strategies that engage teachers also engage students as well. In my earlier research on student engagement, many students cited technology as a preferred way to build knowledge and skills and develop relationships with teachers. So how can we use one-on-one interactions and technology in ways that engage us and our students? Consider these possibilities:

For teacher learning:

Throw a learning potluck party. Invite a colleague who specializes in a certain teaching tool or pedagogical strategy to speak at your home on a weekend. Invite other educators over and ask everyone to bring food to share. Everyone will benefi t from the learning and conversation that follows. It’s kind of like a TED Talk in your living room!

Have a “hallway” chat on Twitter.

Thousands of educators have taken to Twitter to exchange ideas about important topics—from Project Based Learning (#pblchat) to Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (#pbischat), and more. And educators are one of the fastest growing groups on Twitter. According to Brett Baker, an account executive at Twitter,

“Out of the half billion tweets that post every day, 4.2 million are related to education...To put this in perspective, while you read this sentence, over 3,000 edu- related tweets have flown across the Twitterverse.” So join in the conversation!

For student learning:

Use video chat. This gives students an  opportunity  to experience synchronous  learning from their living rooms. That could mean offering online office hours, asking questions, bouncing ideas around, or listening to live group discussions, rather than pre-recorded screencasts or webinars.

Arrange online intervention classes for after school. In my experience, some kids function more bravely online than in the classroom. If we are asking our students to think deeply and critically, maybe allowing them to do so from the comfort of their home will give their brains more freedom to process. Our goal   is to meet students where they are  at. So if you make learning more accessible to them, it might be more successful.

Think about the methods of engagement that help you learn and ask yourself if they might work for your students, too. After all, we are all learners.

Heather Wolpert-Gawron is a teacher at Jefferson Middle School in San Gabriel, Calif., and the author of Just Ask Us: Kids Speak Out on Student Engagement.

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The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.