“The Tech Savvy Educator” and #michED founder, Ben Rimes, is driven to connect teachers in conversations about education and technology. He is an instructional technologist at Mattawan Schools and a compelling voice for the future of education.
Ben Rimes is an invested Michigan educator. He holds a Master’s degree from the University of Michigan-Flint in Educational Technology and currently directs technology professional development at Mattawan Schools. Some accomplishments include founding #michED into a powerful educational conversation, running a long lasting educational blog at The Tech Savvy Educator, and engaging countless students and educators with forward thinking educational practices.
Let’s Do This Twitter Thing
In 2012, Ben Rimes and Jeff Bush wanted to connect teachers across Michigan. “Let’s do it using this Twitter thing, we said . . . but let’s kick it up one more notch. Let’s do it in a way that can serve as a positive platform in which educators, students, parents, and members of the community can really take back the narrative of education in our state.” For the longest time, the narrative of education has been driven by the media, special interest, and politicians. Ben and Jeff wanted to create a space where people could shape a narrative where education is about learning, growing, and empowering individuals. “We’re really trying to build #michED up as a thriving community, one in which we’re there to facilitate conversation, not necessarily to dictate where conversation is going.”
A Conference That Will Blow Your Mind
The Michigan Association of Computer Users and Learners (MACUL) is one of the largest nonprofit teacher organizations in the state, currently with over 15,000 members, and the largest education conference in the State of Michigan. The conference is held annually in March and bounces between Detroit and Grand Rapids, with usually around 4,000 attendees. Is it suitable for people outside of K12? “Yes! There’s a lot of amazing stuff happening at this conference. It grew out of a small group thirty some odd years ago that was just dedicated, like total geeks, like we’re going to make our own computers and tape decks, like that Radio Shack ethos. It’s really evolved now and grown into this big tent event that often leads to lots of amazing conversations in all areas of education… If you’re interested in education or technology and what it looks like in the classroom today, it’s a really wonderful conference to go to and have your mind blown.”
Play Nicely With Others, Be Creative, Adapt
Ben doesn’t believe in 21st-century skills as being married with technology skills. “When I say I don’t believe in them it’s not that I don’t think what they stand for isn’t important. What I think is: The skills that are valued in the 21st century--being able to clearly communicate, being able to creatively communicate, being able to collaborate with others, being flexible--those skills have pretty much always been valued. I remember back in grade school… a lot of my teachers pushed those same skills. You need to be able to play nicely with others, you need to be creative, you need to be able to adapt to situations. I don’t see the skills today being very different from the skills of three decades ago. The technology skills, yes, those are sort of vitally important, but I don’t necessarily think that those need to be married to 21st-century skills. If I can get somebody that can think on their feet and work really well with their group and be creative and understand their role in the team, you can do that in a face to face meeting with sticky notes and highlighters and whiteboards and markers, that’s great. I’d rather have someone like that than someone who is a wiz with all the technology but has… an inability to work with others, inability to be flexible. You always hear business people talk about wanting self starters, I guess that’s the way I sort of see things.”
To Brand or Not to Brand
Six to seven years ago, Ben believed in branding himself and his ideas. Now he wishes he hadn’t gone down that route. “. . . I sort of feel hamstrung. I’ve got that blog. I started it just trying to share cool tech stuff in my school because I was the tech teacher, from there it was an exploration of what I was doing to improve my classroom with technology because I was in a 1:1 classroom. Now, because I’m not in the classroom anymore, I’m an instructional technologist helping lots of teachers, I see a lot of things happening with technology, but also with the educational environment and I want to think and I want to talk about that. Yeah, I guess I could go over to this other web page and start a new blog and do that, but I feel like this blog has become my journal. It’s my experiences. and I go back to it over and over again… Me right now: I’m not a fan as teachers as brands . . . the longer you follow it the harder it is to break out.”
Math in the “Real World”
Ben’s video story problems started as a compelling way for students to connect to the classroom. He worked with a sixth grade teacher who had Flip cams, and they challenged the students, “Guys, your homework this weekend is to find some math in the real world and bring it in, that’s it…” Students who used to wonder when they would ever use math in the real world began to find engaging ways to demonstrate learning. “It was an opportunity for the students to sort of show off and present in a non traditional way. Rather than standing up in front of the classroom and saying ‘Here’s my slideshow.’ It was like ‘Check it out, I was racing my buddy on my atv over the weekend and we decided to time it.’” Ben’s video channel has been used by teachers at the high school level as formative assessments, and it has also generated ideas for other teachers. “The thing I’m most excited about is actually not on the channel. Our tech teacher at the early elementary…. has created a separate channel. Every week on Monday they post a video story problem, created by a student, teacher, or himself. All week long the classrooms, they go ahead ,and they try to solve it…all of these classrooms create videos and submit it.” When “The Conversation Starter” shares ideas, a spark of innovation can spread like wildfire.