I have been a part of the Discovery Educator Network almost since its inception. I wasn’t at that first NECC (now ISTE) conference when the idea was birthed. Honestly, I didn’t know NECC or ISTE existed. I was just a 7th/8th grade English teacher trying to find ways to interest kids in diagramming sentences, fixing dangling participles, and pass a state writing assessment.
My go-to service for that was United Streaming videos. I used them. A lot. And that got me invited to that first meeting of the minds in Silver Spring, MD. And that, as they say, was that.
I had struggled in my classroom, and in my school, as an early adopter of technology beyond using PowerPoint as a mind-numbing teaching tool. I had no one to help me. I desperately needed a guide. I needed someone who had been down this road already and could help me miss the potholes and gain traction when things got slippery on the slope.
That first meeting was like being able to breathe fully for the first time when a heavy weight has been lifted off your chest. I had no idea what I was doing. I was in way over my head. I faked a lot of stuff that week. I didn’t talk much. I listened. I watched. I copied. I stole…er…borrowed. But most importantly, I thrived. I came alive. I found a home. A family.
Over the years I feel like I’ve been pretty good to the DEN. I’ve given a lot of time and effort. I’ve traveled. I’ve presented. I’ve mentored. But no matter how much I give, I can only scratch the surface of what dozens and hundreds and thousands of others have given back to me. When I sit down and talk about the DEN’s direct impact on me as a teacher I have a lot to say. When I try to talk about the DEN’s impact on me as a human being, as a loner who finally found connection, as an introvert that finally found a voice, I nearly always choke back tears. Yes. The connections made in the DEN are just that powerful.
I’ve connected with many DEN Stars on Facebook and Twitter. I have friends, real living breathing people I’ve actually met, in nearly every state and several countries around the world. When we talk about issues at my school, my first response is nearly always, “Let me check with some of my friends in the DEN and see what they are doing about this…”
You ask me why I love the DEN? Quite simply, it has transformed my teaching and learning from the enclosure of four walls around thirty desks to the wide open expanse of the universe. Sounds kinda hokey, right? Yeah, I get that a lot. Love does that to a person.