Douglas Crets


Giving Credibility to the Shadow Education System

DeLeana Tonks: Director, Open High School of Utah

online learning open high school of utah

DeLain Tonks, Director, Open High School of Utah

Your Reputation Creates the Way You Will Learn — A Social Media Project that Tests the Reputation Graph

Today’s interview is with DeLeana Tonks, Director of the Open High School of Utah.

This is a social media project to track what people think about education and their careers. We have based this project on the idea that your reputation online will model your ability to learn and to teach others, as people turn increasingly to the online space for their information, social networking and education.

Credit goes to Jon Bischke who has really been the vanguard in reputation graph thinking. This series is dedicated to him.

Keep following us and spread this around by copying the link and putting it on your social pages and blogs. I am interviewing people as they come in. You can contact me through email and by leaving a comment on this blog. Enjoy the interview.

Douglas: Can you think of a single skill you learned in K12 that you use today in a way that has made you feel successful in business or in your career? What is it and why has it helped?

DeLeana: In AP English, my teacher Sandra Woodward, taught us how to write, write, write. Essays, notes, letters; all genres. She was relentless in her pursuit of our writing perfection and drove us to succeed. The ability to write has served me well across my teaching, administrative, business and political careers because people are judged on how they present themselves in their writing. Grammar, spelling and engaging content are of ultimate importance regardless the profession.

PS I have never once used algebra or geometry although my math teachers all swore I would.

Douglas: What do you think will be a defining trend in education innovation in the next ten years?

DeLeana: Hands down, it’s technology.

We not only have the opportunity “to leverage technology’s promise to improve education”, as Arne Duncan stated, but we have the responsibility as well. The ability to house lessons in a static space online that are accessible 24/7 by anyone, anywhere is powerful and frees up teacher time to customize the educational experience for each student through small group and individual tutoring, giving students what they need when they need it.

Friedman’s predictions in The World is Flat occur on a daily basis at a very rapid rate, with students connecting across the world via technology. Tangible encyclopedias are obsolete and out of date for 21st century learners, but the access to knowledge and the ability to filter through gigs of digital info is a skill-set the next gen learners have already mastered. At what point will the obsolete factory-model education system catch up?

Douglas: What have you learned in your engagement in social media that has helped you in your current career?

DeLeana: The power of Twitter, when using a personal learning network (PLN), gives me instant access to global experts who are happy to share their experiences and solutions to common problems, in addition to best practices.

Douglas: Can you describe a transformative experience you have had that was brought on by engaging with others in the digital media space?

DeLeana: The sharing of best practices and the ability to draw from others’ successes and failures is one of the greatest benefits of Twitter. Instead of reinventing the wheel, you are handed multiple sets of plans and anecdotal evidence of what works and what doesn’t so you can build your own wheel with little trial and error. You get to skip steps 1-7 and advance more quickly on the path to success. For example, in researching different technologies to incorporate, we send out a tweet and ask if anyone has experience with them first, which gives us invaluable “try before you buy” information and transforms us into very savvy consumers.

Douglas: If you were to hire someone for a job in your current career today, what would you expect that person to know how to do immediately? Does the current education system from which you pull your talent offer this kind of training, or do you feel that it is training you have to offer your new hires?

DeLeana: Three things:

1. Social Media experience (Twitter, Facebook etc.)
2. Pick up new technologies quickly, strong independent learner (Voicethread, Glogster, Sliderocket, Excel, Google Docs etc.)
3. Strong communication skills (articulating ideas in writing, via screencast vids, in person)

A little bit of both. I try to hire teachers who have these skills already in place, but some are farther along than others. Most need some training in order to understand WHY these skills matter in today’s education world, especially since the current education climate does not wholly embrace social media.

Technology in today’s education system consists of a computer lab and learning about the parts of a computer, keyboarding, word processing and a few select programs-the same ones they have been teaching since the early ’90’s-and very little emerging technology. In order to survive in today’s world, one must be able to figure things out quickly, which is easy to do through a Google search or by sending out a tweet with the right #hashtag. Tech-savvy teachers are a must in order to keep up with digital natives!

Teachers who create online content must be comfortable with their abilities to project enthusiasm, caring, and passion for their discipline through a computer screen; whether it’s through written directions, video explanations or Skype tutoring.


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One Response

  1. […] DeLeana Tonks, Director, Open High School of Utah […]

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