Voices in Education
PBS in the Classroom

Giving Voice to My Passion: My Experience as a PBS Digital Innovator

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Passion is an interesting thing. It’s born from our inner core—that place where our natural talents, interests, aptitudes and creative sensibilities take root. Despite how innate those passions are, more often than not, they mature through a shared experience with another person. Connecting with others who share our passion breathes life into our own, and it starts to grow and stand tall in our heart, actions, and character.

In our profession, educators are called upon to cultivate this passion in others, particularly in our students, so that they themselves have the chance to flourish in their own time, their own places and their own communities.

As educators, we, too, are lifelong learners. We need to be engaged and fed by others through rich and ongoing connectivity—a creative reciprocity—that allows us to rise to our full potential and bring our own practices to full bloom.

I came to understand this in a very real way last year, when two colleagues separately encouraged me to apply for the PBS Digital Innovators program. That’s one of the great things about being an educator—we push each other to grow. In doing so, they ultimately connected me with a community of educators who helped me unleash my passion for education in new and exciting ways.

When I was selected as Nebraska’s 2016 PBS Digital Innovator, I was elated. Even then, I had no idea how much the experience would change me.

Prior to being a part of the PBS Digital Innovators program, I had never attended a professional conference outside of my home state. I had no concept of developing a personal learning network (PLN) outside of my district. I had no professional Twitter, Voxer, or Edmodo account, and I had never even heard of an EdCamp or Unconference.

The PBS Digital Innovators program changed all of that. Through the program, we met other educators from across the country and PBS provided a framework to collaborate, share our niche passions, and, most importantly, forge relationships for ongoing support. Through social media and webinars, those relationships continue to inspire my creativity and fuel my drive to implement new challenges and learning experiences for my students. It has made me a better teacher.

But the value and impact of the program does not stop there. Having never been a connected educator before this experience, I found a voice for my passions through my immersion in this community – this dialogue sharpened my perspective on education. For the first time, my voice and ideas were given a platform.

My local PBS station, NET Nebraska, published an article in which I shared my thoughts about personalized learning and the benefits of using instructional video production in my classroom. I could advocate for those practices through a series of local articles that ultimately led to a feature article in Omaha Magazine, then to a NET PBS commercial. And just recently, that commercial sparked an invitation from a member of our state legislature asking me to speak to lawmakers about my digital learning ideas during the legislative session in January of this year.

While these opportunities are personally exciting, they also help to build our influence as professionals. When educators have a respected platform to share our ideas, we are able to effectively advocate for our students, our colleagues and our school system as a whole.

I firmly believe the outside world needs to better understand how today’s classrooms are leveraging technology to create new learning experiences that ignite our students’ imagination and passion – and it’s a community effort.  Educators need to draw attention to the collaborative efforts that are required from our communities to break new ground and improve our educational system to better our students, our local communities, and our country.

Through the PBS Digital Innovators program, PBS empowers educators on the front line of change. By creating opportunities for us to share ideas, create networks, and advocate for change in our schools and classrooms, this phenomenal program gives educators a voice. It allows us to harness our passion, teach boldly and change the way others see education and our roles.  

Andrew is a 2016 PBS Digital Innovator and High School teacher from Omaha, Nebraska.  If you are ready to give voice to your professional passions, you can APPLY HERE for the 2017 PBS Digital Innovator program.  We’re looking for classroom changemakers: pre-K-12 educators who set the bar for thoughtful tech integration, and whose enthusiasm opens new worlds for students.

Andrew Easton

Andrew Easton High School Teacher Twitter: @EastonA1

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