I'm a 2017 PBS Digital Innovator!

Saturday, April 22, 2017
Back in January, I made a list of 17 things I wanted to try in 2017. While writing about these things has been slow-going, I have been making my way through the list, all the while having a ball and learning a lot! Two items in particular I have been really excited about attempting were obtaining another technology certification and incorporating more STEAM activities in my classroom. Strangely enough, in attempting one I gained the other.

Although I hinted around about some specific certifications that I wanted to gain, chance actually sent me in a different direction. After finishing my master's degree in educational technology last year, I continued researching novel ways to use technology and discovered PBS Digital Innovators. Upon checking out the website I thought, “This is what I want to do! This the kind of educator I want to be!” I had written and won 2 grants for devices for my classroom and was working hard at using them effectively. Unfortunately, the deadline to apply had passed, and I actually wasn’t quite there yet anyway.
PBS Digital Innovators set the bar for thoughtful tech integration in the classroom. These PreK-12 educators are not defined by the gadgets they use, but by the unique way they approach education. Their bold and enthusiastic perspective sets them apart as changemakers, and unlocks new worlds for their students. ~ PBS Digital Innovators site
So this year as I was considering my options for new certifications or ambassadorships, I remembered PBS Digital Innovators. I have applied for other ambassadorships before and was accepted, so I thought, “I can do this!” So I stuck it on my to-do list, put the deadline on my calendar, and then promptly forgot about it; not because it wasn’t something that I was extremely interested in, but just because I was trying a lot of new things in my classroom and preparing to facilitate a number of trainings during that time. 

The weekend before the deadline I noticed it on my calendar and decided, okay, I’m going to do this! Then I saw the requirements for the submission wasn’t just a well-thought-out essay but included a video. It’s not that I’d never made a video before, but I just hadn’t made many, and creating video is something at which I have to work very hard. Also, recording myself is a challenge for me because I always seem to get tongue tied. But I decided to accept the challenge! Then I came to my next challenge: What am I doing that is truly innovative? I began to reflect on my instructional practices and what I was doing that could be considered innovative. 

I thought briefly about demonstrating how I’m trying more inquiry-based models of instruction, but I felt at that time it was still too soon for me to assert that it was more than just something that I am attempting. I also considered discussing culturally responsive education practices or flipped learning, but still didn’t know if what I was doing in those areas was any more innovative than anyone else. I considered the innovative ways my students and I have been using Seesaw and Google Docs for digital workflow, but just couldn’t find the right angle. Finally, it occurred to me to look at my practices as a whole with integrating literacy and other content areas, as well as incorporating technology and inquiry and student-centered learning . . . .  

I landed on STEAM. My school’s STEAM Leaders Team has encouraged teachers to implement STEAM experiences by exploring opportunities in science, technology, engineering, art, and math that integrate literacy. This year we have incorporated Monthly STEAM days where students participate in activities that bring science, technology, engineering, art, and math together, and just this month had our first ever Family STEAM Night, where parents and students alike enjoyed STEAM activities. As a STEAM leader and Technology Teacher Leader, I have begun to consider making my daily instruction more STEAMy. So I decided to center my presentation on how I’m attempting to integrate STEAM every day in my classroom. (And soon I’ll be sharing some of the specific STEAM activities my students are doing.)

And though it took me all weekend, I created a video presentation showcasing why I should be a PBS Digital Innovator and submitted it along with my well-thought-out essay with my fingers crossed. I immediately sent the link to the video to my Digital Learning Coach saying, “Look what I just did!”

So once again, I set my calendar for the date that the new class of PBS Digital Innovators would be notified and then went about my busy days and weeks. Once again, the date snuck up on me. But on they day we were to find out, the Internet was down at school so I couldn’t check my email all day. Finally, around the end of the day, the Internet was up and running again so I was able to catch up on my email. As I was catching up, I noticed on my calendar that it was the day that the new PBS Digital Innovators would be contacted. I looked through my email and found nothing. Searched PBS Digital Innovators, PBS . . . nothing. So after a brief moment of feeling just a little sorry for myself, I thought, “Oh well. There’s always next year.” And then at that very moment (3:10 to be exact) an email arrived. There it was: PBS Digital Innovators 2017 Notification.

Needless to say, I was ecstatic! While receiving hundreds of applications from highly qualified educators from across the country, PBS selected ME to represent South Carolina as a PBS Digital Innovator! And after over a whole month of knowing this exciting news, I am finally able to announce it!

In addition to having this prestigious title, I have the opportunity attend the PBS Digital Innovators Summit in San Antonio, June 24-26, which includes a day pass to the ISTE Conference. This three-day, all-expense-paid trip will allow me to connect with my fellow Innovators and learn from esteemed professionals in education. I will also receive a PBS Teacherline online professional development course and choice of a digital gift (I chose full ISTE registration!). And finally, my school receives one year of online access to PBS LearningMedia’s custom service.

I am very excited to receive this extreme honor and look forward to the opportunities it will present. I hope you will continue to follow me, as I will be sharing much of what I learn with all of you, too!


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