Next up in our “10 Questions with… ” series is Alex Corbitt. Alex is a middle school English teacher in The Bronx, New York. His work focuses primarily on socio-emotional learning, gamification, education technology, and literacy. He loves learning from other teachers and he regularly presents at conferences around the United States. Alex’s passion for teaching will thrive as long as he continues to laugh with and learn from his incredible students.
1) Who are you?
I am a 7th grade English teacher at The Bronx School of Young Leaders (MS331).
2) Why is technology important to you?
Technology provides students with agency and voice. My students use technology and social media to make real-world arguments, engage in collaborative dialogue, and inspire sociopolitical change.
3) Why is it important to have technology in the classroom?
Technology reframes the purpose of learning. Students don’t read and write for the teacher; they read and write to become part of the larger, public discourse. My students create podcasts to reflect on social justice issues, write Yelp reviews to critique local businesses, and discuss literature on culturally relevant platforms such as YouTube.
4) Favorite piece of technology?
Google Docs has empowered my students to collaborate in unique, exciting ways. Last year, my students worked on a narrative writing project with an English class in Norway. Together they wrote alternative endings to a short story, provided each other with actionable feedback, and analyzed the way their alternative endings altered the theme of the pre-existing story. Along the way, both groups of students shared and learned a great deal about each other’s cultural backgrounds.
5) Favorite subject when you were in school?
English was my favorite subject in middle and high school. I loved reading books and exploring diverse perspectives. In college, I grew fascinated by religious studies. Critiquing issues of ontology and theodicy helped me hone my logical reasoning and critical writing skills.
6) Favorite food?
I love Indian cuisine, particularly chicken jalfrezi. I’ve also been known to enjoy a delicious bowl of cereal.
7) Best trip you ever took and why?
Visiting Kolkata, India with Fordham University’s Global Outreach program was the most powerful travel experience of my life. My peers and I worked at a hospice for two weeks. Our time in Kolkata, though brief, taught us to listen with intention and witness the dignity of those with whom we worked.
8) How do you like to learn?
I love listening to podcasts while commuting to work on the subway. There is so much excellent content available. I prefer to read and write in staccato bursts of 30 minute increments. My learning preferences challenge me to rethink the way I structure my own classroom learning environment.
9) Favorite sport/sports team or TV show?
The 2004 Battlestar Galactica reboot blew my mind. I am an unapologetic nerd.
10) How and why is technology changing the world?
Unfortunately, students and teachers must be wary of technology in 2017. There are many new teaching apps that merely repackage old pedagogies. Teachers must make a concerted effort to use technology in ways that empower and enrich students in ways previously unimaginable.
I’m also worried about fake news, clickbait, and ideological echo chambers in 2017. Our students must be trained to be exceedingly critical when consuming digital media. They need to know how to identify reliable sources, seek diverse perspectives, and value inclusion. Digital literacy is more important now than ever; it will determine the future of our politics and our empathy.
Teachers today are responsible for rearing the next generation of responsible, informed, inclusive digital citizens.