Jeffrey Spencer, Principal Inspiring awesomeness embodies the goal of the Apex Community at Decatur Middle School. In our first year as a New Tech Network middle school, we want to create experiences that inspire our learners to make a difference in their communities and world. When reading Sports Illustrated last week, I came across a story I wanted to share with our community of learners.Jonathan Taylor played baseball for the University of Georgia and last spring, was injured when he dove for a ball and collided with his teammate and close friend, Zach Cone. Taylor suffered a spinal cord injury and currently suffers from paralysis. Despite the obstacles, Taylor’s positive attitude and persistence allowed him to overcome his challenges and inspire others.This week, we read the story to our learners and asked them to use Twitter to send Jonathan a message about what they felt when they heard his story. It was amazing to see 8th graders so moved by a “school” activity. We created #inspireawesome to compile our tweets and see the power of our message. Theresa Shafer, New Tech’s Queen of Social Media, recapped our project on Twitter and directed our work to L. Jon Wertheim, the author of the article.We finished our day with some reflection. I think our students’ responses to Jonathan’s story are profound, which I share below.“Jonathan’s story really inspired me to NEVER give stop believing in myself, that I can do anyhting. Even if you face a struggle, make the best of it and keep a happy face. He is a very special person.”~  Nikki“Jonathan’s story inspired me to not give up. To get up and finish even through tough times…”~Nikki“Jonathan’s story inspired me to push on and understand things won’t remain the same. It is important to adapt and push further even when bad things come around” ~Kodi“Jonathan inspired me to awesomeness because something good can happen from a bad thing” ~DakotaSocial media is a powerful tool in 2012. With 140 characters or less, learners connected and thanked someone in Georgia for being strong enough to share his story. Twitter can build powerful bridgesand connect learners with experiences they will not get from a textbook or educational video.“Being connected to the world is important because you get to know what is going on out there. It is a very important concept because we get to connect to the world that we are interacting with and helping to do awesomeness in our world,” reflected Apex learner Richard.As August closes and we end Connected Educators Month, how can you create connections for your classes? Real-life opportunities inspire learners to make a difference and create relevance for our content. Use your 140 characters wisely and connect your classroom to inspiring opportunities.

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