I recently was in the grocery store to pick up some potato chips (or ‘crisps’ as some other countries refer to them as). I entered the aisle, and this time was truly taken aback by the magnitude of choices I had as a shopper. I mean, lots of choices in the potato chip aisle is nothing new, however, this time I really caught myself stopping for an extra few moments to notice how many varieties, styles, flavors, etc. that there are in this one spot of the grocery store. We’ve certainly become accustomed to lots of choices, haven’t we? You might also be thinking, “Kyle, we need to find you a better way to spend your time on a Saturday!”. Side note: I love trying new/interesting flavors of potato chips. 🙂
One of the flavors I brought home was Sour Cream & Onion. This is a preferred flavor in my house. As I looked at the bag I thought, “I wonder how the development of this particular flavor came to be? What did that conversation and planning look like?”. I’ve always found really random history like this very interesting.
While I didn’t dive into the history of this particular flavor of crispy potato goodness, I am going to make a fairly safe assumption that it stemmed from people who were tired of plain potato chips. I would imagine this is how the plethora of chip flavors all began – “You know what would taste really good? If we made potato chips taste like _____!”.
I then began thinking about innovation in education. The word innovation is used so heavily now. We’re all supposed to be innovative all the time in our teaching and the opportunities we offer students. It’s quickly become a buzzword like so many that have come before it, and we are certainly offered a lot of choices on ways to be innovative in the edtech world. Think of what the edtech space would look like as an aisle in the grocery store!
I’m not saying that being innovative is bad. What I’m getting at is we shouldn’t over complicate what innovation looks like. I think the idea of being/becoming more innovative is intimidating to some people. It needs to begin with something that we’ve become tired of; a particular lesson or unit, a process, a workflow, or the culture of a school or district. Or maybe we’ve discovered something just isn’t working as well as it used to – especially with learning opportunities we give our students and the ways we equip them to express their learning. It’s making the conscious decision (whether individually or collaboratively) that we are ready for something new – something more for ourselves and our students.
Don’t let all the options overwhelm you. Spend some quality time in the “edtech aisle”. Ask lots of questions. Seek help from your network. Select one and give it a go. Make an informed decision on what’s best for your students. I would then encourage you to share what you tried. Blog about it, share it with your school, find your voice to share the great things you’re doing in your classroom. We need more of that.
Is it better to bring people together around things or ideas? There are lots of communities in education: we have communities in our schools, we have learning communities with colleagues, social media communities, professional organizations that create a community around its members, and companies that create a community around what the company is all about for teaching and learning. Needless to say, we have options.
The professional communities that center around education in some way usually bring people together around a device or a platform. Not always, but often. It might be their product(s), software, or other resources that at first bring us in. But what these groups do to keep people active in these spaces matters more than the original hook to “get them in the door”. What are you offering? Is it always the same stuff delivered by the same people? Is it a lot of “old wine in a new bottle”? At the end of the day is it more about the business or more about creating diverse experiences and viewpoints?
A community is nothing without its people, obviously, but community leaders must be willing to put in the work to keep them there. To listen to them, to improve because of them, to be in a mindset of constant iteration, and serving the members. Do you tell your community how much you appreciate them? Do you show them? If I’m in your community, how do I know I’m more than just social media metrics or a bottom line?
A community is about connecting dots for others. We need to make sure we’re giving just as much if not more than what we’re getting.
Over the last couple weeks, but really the topic has come up many times before that, I’ve seen folks talking about all of the self-promotion they’ve seen online from various authors, speakers, principals, teachers, etc., etc. There’s plenty of it for sure – videos, tweets, blog posts, articles, keynotes, pictures with MC Hammer (yes, that really happened to me 8 years ago), and many more. Is it something that is over saturated? Yep. But let me ask you, would you ever wish that on your students that they would stop doing that? Isn’t that something we encourage them to do in this digital era we continue to craft for them? To highlight their accomplishments, to create that oh so important “digital citizen” we want them to be. By the way, let’s just make that “citizen”. Let’s strive for good humans that know how to do amazing things with the tech and connections we provide for them. But I digress.
Why is it bad (negative) when a teacher or a principal or a superintendent does the same thing? Is there some kind of malice or other ill-intent I’m missing or just something I’m naive to? Is it because they’re trying to sell books or get more speaking gigs? For the people who are out there doing this that I know as friends, it makes me proud to know them. We should be happy for them. Why shouldn’t we encourage our teachers and teacher leaders to promote themselves in a positive light just like we do for students?
So, I’m deciding to put myself out there with this post. I’m going to get out of my comfort zone and list reasons that I’m awesome. For the simple reason that I hope it encourages lots of others to step out and do the same thing. I’ve never been a “toot my own horn” kind of guy, and I probably will never become one, but I’m doing it today. We need more people to share the great things about themselves and the work they are doing. What can it hurt?
Why I’m Awesome
I have good people skills.
I put relationships first.
I recognize that a team decision is always better than just me making a decision.
I’m funny (I would likely pick stand up comic as a career in another universe).
I am great at explaining things in a way that’s easy to understand.
I don’t talk down to people.
I really enjoy bringing people together for the betterment of themselves and our students.
I make people feel comfortable
I recognize peoples’ needs and do whatever it takes to meet them.
Well, that wasn’t too awful. You should give it a try. It doesn’t feel horrible and we need to hear why you’re awesome. Let’s not stop having our students do this and let’s be less hesitant to do the same for ourselves. Use #whyimawesome if you share yours online!