September 2013, one month after completing my graduate studies at Fordham University, I began my teaching career at Urban Science Academy (MS325) in the Bronx, an urban high-needs middle school. A new beginning in a new profession, I was excited to begin but nervous for I knew it demanded attention, focus, lots of reading and practice to give the right service to students and their families.
Becoming aware about Professional Development (PD) sessions offered to teachers by the New York City Department of Education, I happily began to attend them to learn something useful for my teaching in Special and General Education classes across content areas. As a new teacher attending those sessions, I was interested in the presenter’s sharing of teaching strategies, tech tools and resources. I became deeply interested to learn how teachers were utilizing various technology tools available free of charge for us to support teaching content and use them as platforms for students to produce and complete assignments. I began to play with and test the tools I felt more comfortable with and soon began using them in my classrooms to teach more effectively, motivate my students to want to learn and give them voice by letting them choose their favorite tech tool to finish tasks and major assessments. My new learnings helped me grow as a teacher, flourish along with my students and make a difference in their lives, especially to those kids hungry to learn and take advantage of what is taught and shared with them for their own intellectual growth.
Fordham Digital Literacies Collaborative (DLC) has been the first group of educators that has helped me become a better teacher and a better public presenter. I entered the teaching profession with great optimism and joining DLC has enlightened my practice and extended my teaching digital skills. Learning and collaborating with DLC has strengthened my courage to find ways to overcome obstacles and take advantage of opportunities that come our way to improve our craft to address the needs of our students who come from diverse, cultural and racial backgrounds. Listening to my peer’s teaching experiences during our online google hangout and in person meetings for the past two years have motivated me to let my kids use tech tools to demonstrate their reading comprehension and improve their writing skills. And now I am in a position where I can share with other educators teaching digital literacy so they can also make use of tech tools to address their kids literacy gaps and enjoy seeing them make progress, explore, discover and appreciate their gifts and talents.
Last July 22, 2015, I had the opportunity and pleasure to give my first public presentation as a teacher to other educators at Fordham DLC Conference. It was my first presentation where I started to feel become a more professional player in education, a more participant in our field. My session entitled “Going Paperless in the Classroom!” was about how my 7th grade ELLs/ICT Science students used Google Docs to complete an essay assignment on Human Body Systems and Class Wikispaces to provide a variety of scaffolded readings below and at grade level. My students received continuous guidance and feedback to edit their essays and selected human body system readings I put together from books, readings, videos and images I found online for them to use and support their essay main points. Two of my students had the opportunity to share with the audience their experience using these two tools. It was a happy moment in my life to hear my students talk about their learning and how we all grew together as learners. And most important, other teachers felt encouraged to play with these tech tools with their students in the future.
I had a second opportunity to be a presenter at Fordham DLC Conference on July 13, 2016 and share with others how I used new tech tools available to teachers, students and parents. This time, I presented, “Expanding the Walls of my Self-Contained Classroom: Connecting with Parents and Students to Increase Literacy Skills,” a session about using Google Classroom and Wikispaces to post task/assignments and resources and Remind App to communicate with parents about the assignments their children had to complete in class and for homework. Again as an active player, I got to share and answer questions on how these tools worked for me and my students and how these helped me motivate students produce works that put forward their language and artistic talents. After two years of presenting at DLC conference, as a teaching in a challenging middle school, I get to inspire teachers try innovative teaching practices and transmit that positive attitude many teachers have passed on to me.
I’m still the student and teacher who will continue to learn from other educators, help me grow and empower me to perfect my craft and do a better job when I’m in front of students. And those moments of enrichment will continue to transform me be a better professional educator to support our students become better functional adults in a fast changing world. And in a closing note, my colleagues, I invite you to experiment with digital literacy with your students and join us to share and present your knowledge and experiences at conferences. It can look daunting at the beginning but all it takes is practice.