Connect!

When my daughter, Kawai, first started playing soccer, she had a bad habit of “toe-punching” the ball -- kicking it with her toes instead of the top of her foot, or “the laces.” It’s a common problem among beginning players. Correcting her form meant teaching her how to connect properly with the ball, physically and mentally. She couldn’t just run up and boot the ball; she had to make a meaningful connection between her head and her foot. It was a bumpy, tedious process, but eventually she mastered it.

Here’s what I learned from that experience: Meaningful connections -- the kind that lead to enduring outcomes -- don’t happen overnight. They are the product of struggle, patience and persistence.

Take it from Jad Abumrad, producer and co-host of “Radiolab” and the guy on the cover of this year's SmartReport on EdTech. In our cover story, "Lessons from ISTE 2017," Abumrad talks about the uncertainty and frustration that comes with doing creative work. He refers to this as “gut churn” and says there’s no easy way through this place; you just have to keep working -- a lot. “There are no shortcuts,” he said in his keynote address to educators at ISTE 2017. “You have to just sit there in that annoying and horrible emptiness and wait for authenticity.”

But as you do, the work gains traction and the connection forms. And as the connection deepens -- as it did for Kawai -- what emerges is beautiful, powerful and authentic.

We explore meaningful connections and the rich learning experiences they produce in this issue. Also featured in our cover story of take-aways from ISTE 2017 are ISTE CEO Richard Culatta sharing insights on personalized learning; EdTechTeam’s Jennie Magiera discussing the importance of sharing our whole stories, even our failures; and Reshma Saujani of Girls Who Code with advice for encouraging girls to embrace risk and eschew the pursuit of perfection.

Elsewhere in this issue, you’ll find advice for bringing virtual and augmented reality into your classroom -- with lots of links to cool resources and tools! -- from Hawaii educator Michael Fricano; practical tips on creating a student-centered environment from instructional technologist Katherine Goyette; and ideas and activities for nurturing authentic learning from a panel of teachers, including this year’s national teacher of the year, Sydney Chaffee.

Wait, there’s more! In our feature “Losing Sleep,” four superintendents share their biggest edtech challenges and the creative ways they’re tackling those issues. Among the insights, you’ll find real-world ways to eliminate silos between teachers and technologists, to craft a long-term tech plan, and to make out-of-school access to digital tools and resources available to all students.

And don’t forget Tech Showcase -- profiling our favorite picks from ISTE 2017 -- and our top 10 Tech Tips, with practical advice from your educator peers.

So dig in! We hope this back-to-school issue helps you make meaningful connections and produce beautiful work in the coming school year. Enjoy!

Kanoe Namahoe is the editor for SmartBrief on EdTech and SmartBrief on Workforce.

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Like this article? Read more like it in the full issue of SmartBrief's back-to-school guide, SmartReport on EdTech. Want to get news like this in your inbox? Check out all of SmartBrief’s education newsletters, covering career and technical education, educational leadership, math education and more.