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Jennie Magiera: Give voice to the untold stories of your students [video]

By Leah Moore 11/22/2017 ISTE Conference & Expo

Have you ever heard a speaker so amazing and inspiring that you knew your life would never be the same after hearing them talk? That’s what it was like to hear Jennie Magiera’s keynote speech at the 2017 ISTE Conference & Expo.

The Chicago-based educator challenged stereotypes and the single stories that we often use to define each other and even ourselves. As she thought about this problem, it became clear to her that the solution was to identify and give voice to the untold stories in education. A sincere and deft storyteller, Magiera opened up about both personal and professional challenges, shared incredible student stories and student-created content and encouraged educators to “find those untold stories, live those untold stories and set them free.”

We laughed, we cried, we cheered and left the keynote room that day feeling inspired, energized and deeply moved. Now Magiera’s full talk is available to all for streaming on YouTube, so settle in and get ready to be inspired!



Inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” Magiera focused on some of the most damaging single stories in education and the accompanying untold stories that need to be recognized and explored.

Chapter 1: The single story of student self-image vs. the untold story of limitless potential

Thrilled to have earned a grant to purchase Dash and Dot coding robots, Magiera couldn’t wait to get her students coding, so imagine her dismay when she heard this: “Ms. Magiera, I can’t code. I’m just a girl.” This led Magiera to give them the ultimate challenge: a triple doggie dare to learn how to code. By the end of the week, not only had the girls learned to code and discovered how much fun it is, they were solving problems and realizing their own limitless potential.

Chapter 2: The single story of teachers vs. the untold story of wizards

When she was in fourth grade, Magiera had an extraordinary teacher who, on the first day of school, invited her students to go on an adventure. The then 9-year-old couldn’t help but draw a comparison between this woman and Gandalf the Grey, the wizard in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy classic The Hobbit. In that moment, she realized that teachers are wizards. Despite how they are sometimes represented in the media, Magiera reminds us that teachers are “fun-loving, adventure-going, passionate human beings who are leading our kids to go on an adventure every day.”

Chapter 3: The single story of resistant colleagues vs. the untold story of friendly dragons

Sometimes, it’s lonely on the cutting edge. For teachers who want to try new, innovative, tech-infused strategies to amplify learning and boost outcomes, it can be frustrating to run into roadblocks and resistant colleagues. To demonstrate how she overcame these challenges, Magiera shared a story her mother told her about a village in Korea and a vicious dragon there that was barring villagers’ way. When one villager noticed that the dragon was tangled in thorns and showed it compassion, the dragon transformed into a friendly villager who had become frustrated after getting stuck and no one would help him. Over time, Magiera discovered that through listening to the challenges of resistant colleagues, “the friendly dragons,” those same colleagues could become some of her greatest allies.

Chapter 4: The single story we tell the world vs. the untold story of our inner selves

There’s often a big difference between what we share on social media and what’s really going on in our lives. After reading the New York Times article “Don’t let Facebook make you miserable” by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, Magiera audited her own Facebook presence and discovered that she, too, was guilty of misrepresenting her life online. Sharing both a personal and a professional story of struggle, Magiera emphasized the impact that telling the untold stories of our inner selves can have. She encouraged educators, particularly those on the forefront of edtech, to share the full story of how they got to where they are so that others who aren’t as far along on their journey know that they are not alone.

Chapter 5: How technology helps us shatter the single story

One of the most powerful ways Magiera uses technology with her students is through teaching them how to share their stories through video. This builds confidence and empowers them to share their thoughts and who they are. When Magiera’s former student teacher, Lindsay Rose, was offered a position in South Shore, Chicago, she put these edtech skills to work. The kids in her class were frustrated by how their neighborhood — dubbed “Terror Town” by the local papers — was represented in the news as nothing but a den of violence and drugs. Rose encouraged them to tweet, write blog posts and Facebook posts, and share the true story of who they are with the world — and the world took notice. It wasn’t long before Rose’s students caught the attention of both local and national media outlets and earned an opportunity to share their story with a worldwide audience in a video called “This Isn’t Chiraq.”

Watch Magiera’s full keynote talk to get inspired and unlock your own untold stories.

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