An Interview with Educator Emily Vickery

In addition to work as  21st Century Learning Specialist for a Florida high school,  Emily Vickery is a member of Teachers Leaders Network, Center for Teacher Quality. She notes in this interview her anticipation of things to come such as in crafting new designs and expanding access to quality learning. Emily notes that when learning is open and free, positive cultural and economic shifts will happen that will reshape a notion of what an education is and redefine learning, while the role of teacher will morph into novel applications

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Q: If I were an unconnected colleague you wanted to get more involved in connected education, what is the first thing you’d send me, show me, or do with me?

The first thing I would do is to ask the following: What are your passions? What do you want to do differently in your teaching? What do you do well that you would like to share with others?

Q:  What do you say to educators who say they do not have time to be more connected?

Modes of connection vary widely. From social media, virtual communities, webinars, shared groups, social bookmarking, and email. (It is not only Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus that support networks. We often forget that email remains a strong vehicle that supports connections.) Determine your passion, locate one group or organization that interests you, and begin with small steps. Follow discussions and engage in them. Your network will grow, even though you may not realize it, over time. Your personal learning network will expand, as well as your eagerness to share.

Q: What do you see as the obligations of a connected educator?  What contributions do you feel you need to make, and what do you get in return?

A connected educator is also a connected learner. A connected educator is one who curates and shares information, within cyberspace and face-to-face. The obligation is to follow one’s passion and to search out others who share that passion, to negotiate meaning within various contexts.  

Q: What would you recommend educators do to get more support for connected education in their school, district, and/or state?

I hope that as schools become less hierarchical, more flattened with shared leadership, teachers will be able to connect throughout the day and not encumbered by firewalls and filters. Until then, educators must make the case that navigating learning hubs and networks as critical in undertaking our work.

Q: How is connected education particularly valuable for educators in your teacher-leader role?

While connections are important for improving practice and sharing best practices, I find them extremely important in understanding the “shaping trends” that impact curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, and new ways of learning. Moreover, connected networks are increasing in importance as learning is being redefined, remixed, and hacked.  Growing interests in learning studios, learning regions, collaborative learning spaces, coding, gaming, and the mobile distribution of opportunity are only a few trends I follow in my professional learning network.

Q: How are you using connected education to help you work with parents, students, and other stakeholders?

In mid-October, my students in Pensacola, Florida, will collaborate with Renee Moore’s students in Greenville, Mississippi. Our students will examine the myth of stereotypes and write pieces that examine various perspectives of implicit and explicit bias, such as race, ethnicity, body image, accent, and religion.  We undertook a collaboration last school year on Letter from Birmingham Jail and wanted to continue working together this year.

Q: What impact has connected education had on student achievement in your experience?  What impact do you think it can have?

Are these the right question? I do know that connected learning has opened up student perspectives and empathy—enlarging an understanding of those who are unlike us. Perhaps that is more important than a test score.

Q: How do you plan to get more connected in the next year (or two)?

I need to re-dedicate myself to pruning while also widening my network – to sharing more often and introducing colleagues to each other.

Q: What would you like to create or build together with your fellow educators?

The disaggregation of education, pushed by market demand and nimble technologies, is providing fresh forms of Do-It-Yourself learning. I am eager to work with others across a broad spectrum of interests (and geography), not solely educators, in crafting new designs and expanding access to quality learning. Equity remains the watchword in these emerging new learning landscapes. When learning is open and free, positive cultural and economic shifts will happen that will reshape our notion of what an education is and redefine learning, while the role of teacher will morph into novel applications. I’d love to be a part of that change, working with like-minded people.

Q: What do you think should be happening in connected education that isn’t yet?

While there are pockets of innovation, for the most part, teacher preparation has ignored the importance of connecting learners. As I have written, if higher education does not remake itself, it will become obsolete; pushed by market demand – pushed by culture and the way daily lives are lead in an ever-increasing mobile, hyper-connected world.

Q: Why should other districts and states actively support connected education?

While connected education is important, it must be clear what constitutes an effective online education for not all of them are created equal. From throwing blended learning in a district without understanding its various approaches to purchasing canned online curriculum, policymakers and superintendents must pay close attention to the implications of policy decisions. It is an imperative that they partner with teachers, learning architects, network “sherpa,” curation creators, and teacherpreneurs – those who understand the new and emerging landscape –  to create a new learning ecology.

Q: To the extent resources are a limitation, what do you think your peers should sacrifice or do less of in order to better support connected education?

It is not just peers; it is necessary to change perspectives – from teachers and students to principals and policymakers. It is a requirement to understand that industrial-style education has long been outdated. Fresh forms are emerging and should be encouraged to flourish.

Q: As you think about the importance of connected education, what are some questions that remain unanswered for you?

Connected learning can take place within face-to-face classrooms. Yet, it is largely relegated to small group work. How are threaded discussions, chat rooms, wikis, and other digital tools connecting learners in face-to-face classrooms? How are collaborative learning spaces emerging in your school, district, and/or state? How is the use of “space” redefining your curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment? How is your use of “space” connecting your students together within a face-to-face classroom?

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"...connected networks are increasing in importance as learning is being redefined, remixed, and hacked. Growing interests in learning studios, learning regions, collaborative learning spaces, coding, gaming, and the mobile distribution of opportunity are only a few trends I follow in my professional learning network. "

About Educator Emily Vickery

Emily Vickery is a teacher, learning architect, consultant, and writer with over twenty years of broad-based educational experience—from teaching students in the classroom to working with the U. S. State Department, state departments of education, policymakers, corporations, and nonprofits. She is an innovative educator who has worked in a wide variety of settings, from teaching in an economically disadvantaged urban high school to serving as a consultant to a state governor. The constant in her work has been a love of teaching and learning. She is the 21st-century learning specialist at the innovative Pensacola Catholic High School in Florida where she designs professional development and supports teachers in curriculum, instruction, assessment, learning management, and the use of digital tools. She is on the design team for the USDE initiative League of Innovative Educators, a member of Teacher Leaders Network, and co-author of Teaching 2030 and Teacher Preparation 2.0,  

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