Humans and Tech for the Win: Balancing Technology with Interpersonal Skills

Humans and Tech for the Win

Today is one of those days I’m grateful for both technology and human interactions. It’s the balance of those two that enabled me to survive what might sound like a really bad day.

This morning, as I was driving my son to pick up our dog from Low Pressurethe doggy hotel, I drove over a pothole in the road. Within a few seconds the dashboard on my car indicated I had low tire pressure, and within 30 seconds my tire was completely flat. Without the instant warning on my dashboard, I might not have known that I had a flat.

I was able to safely park the car. Using an app on my phone, I was able to summon a ride-share driver who was nice enough to drive us to the doggy hotel and wait while we picked up our dog. While the technology enabled us to get out of the rain, it was the driver who saw our needs and showed compassion. I have to admit, I’m not sure if I’d let a strange dog in my car before today.

After getting the dog home, I headed to the airport in another ride-share vehicle. Once I got to the airport, I contacted my insurance company to have the car towed. After all, I can’t leave it on the side of the road all week while I’m gone. I used an app to contact the insurance company and eventually spoke to a nice agent who was empathetic to my situation. He listened and, knowing that I was going to be hard to reach because of my flight schedule, arranged the tow right away. He texted all of the information to my son who was still at home. The tow truck company sent a few texts letting my son know when they would be there. He was able to walk back to the car and meet with the tow truck driver with no issues and no extended wait time. I thought this whole process would be a hassle, but it was a breeze thanks to the combination of technology and people who cared.

That probably sounds like a lot for one day, but my day didn’t Bad weatherend there. Due to some inclement weather in Houston, my flight to New Orleans was delayed a few times. Before I landed, I received a message from the airline about the delay on my phone. Their app even suggested a few alternative flights for me. I talked to the gate agent and he was able to put me on standby on the next flight out without forcing me to surrender my seat on my original delayed flight. Throughout the delay, I received updates through the app on my phone and from the gate agent. The combination of human interaction and technology enabled me to know exactly what was happening and what options were available.

As I was sitting on my final flight, I started to reflect on my day. If I saw this same series of events happen in a movie, I would think it was overkill. But the truth is, I’m not looking back on today with frustration; I learned a lot from my experiences.

I was reminded that technology alone isn’t enough to change the Smileworld—it’s the human interactions that we have along the way that really matter. I couldn’t have gotten through today without some of the technology, but I’d be just as lost if I hadn’t been greeted with people who cared about what was happening. This holds true for education as well. Finding the right balance between technology and face-to-face teaching is crucial for schools today.

I learned that interpersonal skills cannot be underestimated. I had to have the ability to speak clearly and know how to ask for help today. This is a soft skill that is often overlooked in an assessment-driven culture. Regardless of what our students dream to accomplish, interpersonal skills are more important than ever.

I also learned that problem-solving skills are just as important. Today, it didn’t matter what my high school AP test scores were. I survived today because of teachers who taught me to be creative and think things through before acting.

Should You Be Thinking About a Student Data Cleanup?


Student data derived from your online learning program can be a powerful tool for monitoring progress, setting goals, and measuring success. But if you’re not maintaining your student data, you could lose out on those benefits and potentially risk making decisions based on faulty information.

So what’s the best way to keep your data accurate? The answer is simple: conduct regular data cleanups—and the more often you do this, the more reliable your data will be.

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How to Teach the 9 Themes of Digital Citizenship [Infographic]


What is digital citizenship?

Digital citizenship refers to how we conduct ourselves on the web. Teachers, parents, and leaders in technology help students to understand what it means to use technology in an appropriate and responsible way. With the advent of social media, this issue is becoming increasingly important, especially for today’s youth.

The Rise of Social Media

Growing up in the late 80s and early 90s, digital citizenship wasn’t something that I, my parents, or my teachers really thought about. It was hardly an issue during a time where most of our research papers were written from library books. In fact, instant messaging with AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) didn’t break onto the scene until the late 90s.

But with the creation of Facebook and Myspace in the early 2000s, we began to consider the issue more seriously. Now, people and businesses all over the world have Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts.

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Top New Books for Educators – See What’s Coming Out in May!


New Books for Educators - May 2016 - The Class: Living and Learning in the Digital Age

The Class: Living and Learning in the Digital Age
Sonia Livingstone, Julian Sefton-Green

Do today’s youth have more opportunities than their parents? As they build their own social and digital networks, does that offer new routes to learning and friendship? How do they navigate the meaning of education in a digitally connected but fiercely competitive, highly individualized world?

Based upon fieldwork at an ordinary London school, The Class examines young people’s experiences of growing up and learning in a digital world. In this original and engaging study, Livingstone and Sefton-Green explore youth values, teenagers’ perspectives on their futures, and their tactics for facing the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

New Books for Educators - May 2016 - Grit

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
Angela Duckworth

In this must-read book for anyone striving to succeed, pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows parents, students, educators, athletes, and business people—both seasoned and new—that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.”

Drawing on her own powerful story as the daughter of a scientist who frequently noted her lack of “genius,” Duckworth, now a celebrated researcher and professor, describes her early eye-opening stints in teaching, business consulting, and neuroscience, which led to the hypothesis that what really drives success is not “genius” but a unique combination of passion and long-term perseverance.

New Books for Educators - May 2016 - Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why

Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why
Paul Tough

In How Children Succeed, Paul Tough introduced us to research showing that personal qualities like perseverance, self-control, and conscientiousness play a critical role in children’s success.

Now, in Helping Children Succeed, Tough takes on a new set of pressing questions: What does growing up in poverty do to children’s mental and physical development? How does adversity at home affect their success in the classroom, from preschool to high school? And what practical steps can the adults who are responsible for them—from parents and teachers to policy makers and philanthropists—take to improve their chances for a positive future?

Tough once again encourages us to think in a brand new way about the challenges of childhood. Rather than trying to “teach” skills like grit and self-control, he argues, we should focus instead on creating the kinds of environments, both at home and at school, in which those qualities are most likely to flourish. Mining the latest research in psychology and neuroscience, Tough provides us with insights and strategies for a new approach to childhood adversity, one designed to help many more children succeed.

New Books for Educators - May 2016 - Teaching and Learning for the Twenty-First Century

Teaching and Learning for the Twenty-First Century: Educational Goals, Policies, and Curricula from Six Nations
Fernando M. Reimers, Connie K. Chung

This book describes how different nations have defined the core competencies and skills that young people will need in order to thrive in the twenty-first-century, and how those nations have fashioned educational policies and curricula meant to promote those skills. The book examines six countries—Chile, China, India, Mexico, Singapore, and the United States—exploring how each one defines, supports, and cultivates those competencies that students will need in order to succeed in the current century.

Teaching and Learning for the Twenty-First Century appears at a time of heightened attention to comparative studies of national education systems, and to international student assessments such as those that have come out of PISA (the Program for International Student Assessment), led by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. This book’s crucial contribution to the burgeoning field of international education arises out of its special attention to first principles—and thus to first questions: As Reimers and Chung explain, “much can be gained by an explicit investigation of the intended purposes of education, in what they attempt to teach students

New Books for Educators - May 2016 - The Transformative Power of Collaborative Inquiry

The Transformative Power of Collaborative Inquiry: Realizing Change in Schools and Classrooms
Jenni Donohoo, Moses Velasco

Teachers are powerful change agents in the on-going process of school improvement. This insightful, must-read guide helps school leaders shape the development of a sustainable professional learning culture. Practical suggestions and in-depth research shed light on your path as you explore the benefits and challenges of adopting authentic teacher collaboration across schools and districts. A follow-up to Jenni Donohoo’s best-selling Collaborative Inquiry for Educators: A Facilitator’s Guide to School Improvement, this book will quickly move you from theory to practice. Learn valuable lessons from leaders’ experiences in the field and discover:

  • A rationale and framework for engaging in inquiry
  • The vital conditions needed to ensure system wide collaboration
  • Common pitfalls and the four stages of school improvement

Why Strong Teacher Leaders Make Successful Schools

Why Strong Teacher Leaders Make Successful Schools

The federal government recently passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to replace the No Child Left Behind Act. Both of these acts were passed by the US Congress and signed into law by the President of the United States. And whether you agree or disagree with your elected officials, I have to believe that they truly want our schools and students to succeed.

Let’s face it, no legislator really wakes up and thinks “I’m going to pass laws that make life tough for teachers and students.” Legislators who mean well passed both of these acts, but only time will tell if the implementation of the law actually leads to the intended results.


One of the things that has me a little excited about ESSA is that, for the first time, a US education law recognizes the important role that teacher leaders play in schools. ESSA supports teacher leaders in four places (p. 319, 333, 350, and 356-357) and supports the use of education funds to provide training and support for teachers on instructional leadership teams (p. 319).

At the ISTE conference in 2014, I led a session for administrators called “Building Teacher Leaders.” The premise of the session was that successful schools have strong teacher leaders and great administrators who help to foster leadership in their teachers. I was fortunate to have some administrators across the US who agreed with me on the importance of teacher leadership share their perspectives as well.

“…teacher leaders are at the heart of every successful blended and online learning program that I have observed or with which I have worked.”

This was one of my favorite sessions because teacher leaders are at the heart of every successful blended and online learning program that I have observed or with which I have worked. Schools that want to build capacity in their blended programs will support the development of teacher leaders.

If you’re a building administrator, it’s time to ask yourself how you can leverage the power of teacher leaders to improve the culture and outcomes at your school. If you’re a teacher, now is a great time to step up and take on a new leadership role. Research shows that teachers adopt new educational technology initiatives in less time and with more success when they are learning from a trusted colleague.

Now it’s your turn to share your expertise with a fellow teacher or to reach out to another teacher and ask for support you as you integrate technology with your classroom practices. Let’s seize the opportunity to show that teacher leaders are a huge part of successful schools.