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Author Interview: "#EduMatch: Snapshot in Education"

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Twenty educators recently came together to publish their own book, #EduMatch: Snapshot in Education, and its editor, Sarah Thomas, agreed to both answer some questions about it and coordinate responses from some of her co-authors.

Sarah Thomas is the founder of the #EduMatch movement, a project that empowers educators to make global connections across common areas of interest.  Sarah is also Regional Technology Coordinator, a Google Certified Innovator, and a doctoral candidate in Education at George Mason University.

LF: First can you share a brief overview of EduMatch?

Sarah Thomas:

EduMatch is a collaborative grassroots movement that uses the power of social media to connect educators along similar lines of interest.  The project was established in 2014, and we are continuing to grow our family.  Currently, we have a reach of over 20,000 educators worldwide.  As educators and lifelong learners, we realize that relationships are the foundation of learning.  For this reason, we focus on the relationship and connections among members so that we can better learn and grow together.

LF: What prompted the book, and what are some of the things you learned out of the process of organizing and producing it?

Sarah Thomas:

Several factors came together to make this book a reality.  First, each person who joins our EduMatch network brings a piece of themself, which truly helps the movement grow.  Several of our members had expressed interest in writing a book one day, as a bucket list item.  Second, we had reached a point where I wanted to trademark EduMatch, and for that, we needed a product.  So, I floated the idea to our Voxer group and guest bloggers, and members were very enthusiastic about the idea.

The major takeaway was that people are so open and willing to share for the benefit of the educational community.   This book was truly a leap of faith.  We didn't know if this was going to work, or if we were spinning our wheels.  However, this team of contributing authors are amazing, and they were open to trying something new to see what happens.  This book was living proof of the saying, "you miss 100% of the shots that you don't take."  I'm honored to collaborate with this amazing group.

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LF: There is a lot in it, and this may be an unfair question, but can you highlight two-or-three practical tips for teachers that are described in the book?

Responses from several co-authors:

"My chapter focuses on Project Based Service Learning in the World Language Classroom, and much of it is philosophical, however I included a number of suggestions of organisations teachers might partner their classes with, teachers who have been involved in similar projects, and tools I have used to bring my students beyond the classroom walls. My work in this area is ongoing, and by summer I hope to have a database of projects and connection opportunities to share as part of a program with the New York State Association of Foreign Language Teachers." - Tracy Brady, Ch. 7

"A practical tip is the use of modified rubrics featured in my chapter. Teachers may be inadvertently stifling students' creativity and 'outside the box' thinking by being too specific with the criteria they are looking for when they grade an essay or project. With the modified rubric, students only see the bare minimum requirements that provide them with a passing score. This 'advanced' category is really left very ambiguous because it isn't described which can help push students to produce an even better project or paper because they aren't trying to conform to the exact language featured on the average rubric." - Raye Wood, Ch. 8"

"A student-driven classroom is one that includes the ideas and opinions of students, from curriculum content to the way in which you approach the content and ultimately how that content is delivered and learned. Some practical ideas that can be derived from the chapter include:

1. Build/Cultivate Community.
2. Put yourself in the shoes of the student.
3. Ask questions a lot, get the conversations going and let students respond to students.
4. Give students a variety of ways to individualize their learning. " - Dene Gainey,Ch. 9

LF: What are two-or-three classroom challenges discussed in the book and how did those contributors respond to - and learn from - them?

Responses from several co-authors:

"One are that I found challenging in my classroom was being accessible to students for answering questions or providing resources when they needed it, which may have been beyond the time of the school day. I have referred to this as a 'disconnect,' because students were unable to ask questions for clarification, when working on assignments or projects at night or on weekends, and as a result, their learning would stop. There were also times when students would forget materials at school, and would be unable to complete the assignment, and so it was another lost opportunity for learning. I did some research and found a messaging tool and an LMS to put in place, which helped to solve this disconnect, and enabled me to be more accessible to the students, and for there to be a centralized location for the sharing of resources. I learned that when setting up a learning space, having digital tools like these in place are key for providing opportunities for students to communicate, collaborate and to receive the help when and where they need it." - Rachelle Dene Poth, Ch. 3

"A challenge in my chapter was dealing with the negativity from others when you are trying to reach out of the box and do something different. My response is, at the end of the day, you know your students better than anyone else and you want to grow as well as your students, so keep growing and keep learning." - Bradford Harris, Ch. 5

LF: What are two-or-three of the most surprising things you saw in the essays contributed to the book?

Responses from a co-author:

"Educators and parents will be happily surprised that 'soft' skills are actually substantial and significant. The touchy-feely, warm and cozy, fired up and rarin' to go aspects of teaching not only matter, they are essential for deep, lasting learning. Emotional intelligence, social smarts, and soulful sustenance are not just fluff to occasionally add to the rigors of knowledge and knowhow; they are the determining factors between truly fulfilling one's potential and merely marking time until the last bell rings. We must no longer diminish the importance of any vital skill by referring to it as 'soft.' For without the comprehensive, whole-child approach to meeting students' four elemental needs explained in my chapter, we cheat kids out of an optimal educational experience and fail to fully inspire the immense promise that resides in every child." - Robert Ward, Ch. 6

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LF: Is there anything I haven't asked you that you'd like to share?

Responses from several co-authors:

"After reading my chapter, I would like for educators and professional development facilitators to examine their current practices and think about some logical next steps. We have to begin thinking about how we deliver standards and content in a mobile society. It won't happen overnight but if you start with a plan and implement where applicable and available, you will be on your way!" - Tia Simmons, Ch. 2

"Every teacher needs a PLN (Professional Learning Network) that expands outside of the walls of their building, school district, city, country, and state. There is so much power in having others to hold you accountable and lift you when you need it." - Knikole Taylor, Ch. 11

LF: Thanks to everyone who contributed responses!

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The opinions expressed in Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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