This past Sunday was a gorgeous day. The sun was shining, there was barely a cloud in the sky, and the temperature was almost eighty degrees by eight o'clock in the morning. I live in New England, so this is the type of day I dream about all winter long. On a day like this I can usually be found on the beach, catching up on some reading, or riding my bike along the ocean. On this particular Sunday, I was not doing either of those activities. Instead, I attended the first day of the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy at the University of Rhode Island.
The day before, while at the beach with a friend, I mentioned that I was spending the entire upcoming week taking this class. My friend's question was something like this: "Why would you take a class for a week in the middle of July?" I have to admit, his question made me wonder this, too. I thought about the sun, the sand, the crash of the waves. Then I questioned myself: Why would I give up my opportunities to enjoy the gorgeous July weather to sit inside all day, in most likely a windowless room with the air conditioning set too high, where I would spend hours focusing and working my brain rather than relaxing?
I wasn't at the institute very long at all when I had the answer to my question. There were over 150 educators at the institute and they knew the answer as well. Together, we represented educators in a variety of roles, including public school teachers, school librarians, and university professors. We also came from many different places, representing twenty-one states and eight countries. The reason we all had for giving up a Sunday, as well as the following five days, in the middle of July in order to learn about digital literacy was the commonality that bonded us all. Our students. We were all led to this professional development opportunity because we want better for our students. We all want to enhance our repertoire of tools and strategies for instruction, but the ultimate goal in doing that is improved learning.
Being in a room full of educators, all focused on student learning, is always energizing and inspiring. Part of being a professional educator is being a life-long learner. I am continuously learning by seeking out new ideas and better ways to support my students as they grow into independent readers, writers, and thinkers. There is no better place to do this than with a group of professionals who bring varying perspectives, but a common desire to continue to learn and improve upon student learning. We were only minutes into the institute when I realized the group of educators I found myself with this Sunday in July were going to impact my learning in powerful ways. The sun, the sand, the waves were far from my mind as I looked forward to a week of learning.