Let's Get Digital. . . in the Classroom

The Q2030 plan recognizes that effectively educating students is about much more than simply what they're exposed to in the confines of the classroom.Bettendorf High Schoolprincipal Jimmy Casas realized years ago the need to connect his students, faculty and staff globally via the digital age, something that strikes fear in a lot of educators because it involves social media, mobile apps and blogs in the classroom. "When I went out there in the world of education, very few were doing what we were trying to do. They saw no value in it. They saw it as something bad," Mr. Casas said. "What it's all about to me is using the tools we have available to connect globally instead of being confined to the four walls just here in this environment."

Mr. Casas leads the way. He has about 19,500 Twitter followers, and that's only on his personal page, not to mention the thousands following the different BHS pages. He has his own website, and is the author of a monthly education blog with a throng of readers. With the #bettpride hashtag he created, BHS amasses Twitter buzz that rivals celebrities. Mr. Casas also is the co-author of What Connected Educators Do Differently, a book that Education Week Magazine voted one of "16 Books Educators Should Consider Reading in 2016."

"The kids don't need our permission to use these tools. They're using them already, so why are we hiding from it? Why are we blocking it? My feeling is to open those channels and tell our story," Mr. Casas said. "The kids should be telling our story. Our staff should be telling our story. They do it through social media." There are large monitors throughout BHS that display the school's live Twitter feeds. The online activity resulting from the "open-access philosophy" created by Mr. Casas has put him, BHS and its students on the map. And it's a great example of a relevant way to engage our young people so they are more enthusiastic about learning and building the Quad Cities CREATIVE PEOPLE talent pool.

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