Seizing Opportunities

Another school year has begun or it will begin soon. This is my 13th year as an instructional technology specialist/coach. I am sitting here reflecting on the teachers, students, administrators, parents, and other staff members I have had the honor of serving. It’s such fun meeting people here in my new school district and also when I get the opportunity to travel and speak in other places around the country. What many don’t realize is that while they might be coming to learn from me in a formal setting, I am enjoying learning from them just as much. I learn new ideas for how teachers want to have their students learn with technology, I learn new ways of providing students more opportunity to learn outside of a traditional classroom space, how to redesign classroom spaces, how technology can level the playing field for learning opportunities regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic status, and new ways to provide meaningful learning opportunities for educators and other staff. The list can go on but I think you get the idea.

rocket launch
https://www.flickr.com/people/gsfc/

The really cool thing is, I’m getting to help people and learn at the same time. Helping them is my passion; to help educators grow in their use of technology by providing meaningful learning experiences for them and the students we serve.

These are all opportunities worth seizing. I want to take as many as I can within reason whether they’re local, national or international. Sure, there are limitations on how much I can be gone from my full-time job and family, but that doesn’t lessen my desire of wanting more opportunities to grow. Sometimes I want opportunities I can’t have for one reason or another. Maybe the timing isn’t right or I’m just not the right person in a particular instance.  I can always respect that but it still bums me out from time to time. When that happens it’s a missed opportunity to help others grow and an opportunity for me to grow as well.

As you start a new school year, what opportunities are you going to seize? Sometimes they’re right under our noses, and sometimes we have to see bigger and shoot for the moon. Either way, don’t stop seizing opportunities to bring growth to yourself, your colleagues, and your students.

Have an outstanding school year.

Being Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Everyone is in “get ready for another year” mode, or maybe you’ve already started the new school year. A new school year brings many new things: new students, new teachers, new beginnings, and quite often it brings many new challenges.

In my district, it’s our 1:1 initiative, which we call Connect2Learn, that will be our new challenge for the start of the 2015-16 school year. Actually, it’s a culmination of many challenges being triumphed over many years that got us to this point. Let me also clarify that my use of the word ‘challenge’ here does not imply something negative or insurmountable. Challenges are how we grow; and when we grow, our students are the ones who win. These are the best kind of challenges.

For some, challenges are seen as negative because they create professional discomfort. It’s something new, something different, and not the way we’ve “done school” in the past. When was the last time you were challenged professionally? We present our students with learning challenges all the time; yet as educators, we seem to be ok with not being challenged in our own learning. What has happened to the growth mindset? Bring back the “culture of the sponge” I say! Soak up all you can to help you be better for our students!

How do we get there you ask? I offer five ways that can help us become more comfortable with being uncomfortable:

1. Get connected. We need to be connected educators that are plugged in to the online opportunities we have to connect with and learn from others. There are loads of ways to do this: Twitter, Facebook groups, Google+ communities, blogs, and more. Pick one (or more if you’re feeling adventurous) and jump in. Your chances are really good that there’s someone else that can offer some “been there done that” advice.

2. Create and take opportunities. Leaders, are you keeping your teachers aware of online and face to face opportunities for growth? Teachers, are you taking these opportunities that are sent to you? Go to an edcamp, go to a conference, go to your local Google Educator Group meetup, or use social media to put together your own! If you think the online conversations and learning are good, you should try it face to face.

3. Maintain support. This one falls on districts. I of course will always first look through the technology lens because that’s my world, but it still rings true anywhere in education. If teachers go online to learn or through a face to face option we must be ready to support their efforts continually. That might mean new positions, additional positions, or simply making time for teachers to talk about and practice what they’ve learned. There has to be some kind of ongoing support system in place.

4. Empower each other.  If you’re doing any of the previous three, then this one should be happening naturally. Our leaders need to be empowering their folks to not just be better, but also empowering them by giving them opportunities to share what they’ve learned with their fellow teachers. This doesn’t have to be a formal presentation, it just needs to be a time for conversation. Let’s not have it be just hearing through the grapevine about what so-and-so is doing down the hall. If you see something outstanding happening in a classroom ask that teacher to share it!

5. Share. Sharing something awesome you’ve done with your peers (online of offline) can be a scary thing. You’re being completely transparent to your colleagues about what worked, what didn’t work, and what you plan to do next. Don’t let the idea of sharing with your colleagues get you freaked out. We’ve all been there, and remember that we need your genius! There’s so many ways you can share; just pick the one that works best for you.

We need to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable from time to time. It’s not about being the best, but every day we should strive to be better than we were yesterday.

 

 

Why Forward Movement Matters

If you think about the staggering amount of edtech services out there, coupled with the numerous types of devices, it can feel pretty overwhelming to most people. We go to edcamps, conferences, webinars, etc. and get filled up with so many new ideas and resources but we don’t know where to start. Have you ever had either of these feelings?

Looking at it through the workshop facilitator/presenter lens, I’m just not into trying to cover 60 tools in 60 minutes or whatever other catchy title there is for it. That’s just not my style. I think we (leaders, presenters, etc.) need to keep this in mind when sharing with the intent of moving teachers forward with technology integration. The last thing I ever want to do is see someone get overwhelmed with too many choices. I will tell people this that I’m meeting with or presenting to on whatever the topic may be; especially if our time together is pretty limited.  I’ve seen the look on teachers’ faces that shows their brain has been flooded and they don’t know what to do next. Like I said, there’s so many options out there for us and our students. I’d rather only share 3 ideas with you to dive into and pick from, and you try 1 of them and get really good at it. The old adage of ‘less is more’ most definitely rings true with technology integration.

Even so, when trying to get teachers to focus their learning with incorporating technology, there is often an unnecessary urgency. Here are some of the commonalities I’ve heard teachers say:

“I want to try this, this, and this and have my students using all of them within the next week.” (too much at once)

“Yeah but Mr. ‘teacher down the hall’ is having his students using Hangouts, coding, and robotics.” (feeling the need to compete)

“I’m only doing ____ right now in my class, which I know isn’t much.” (feeling that what they’re doing is inadequate)

Here’s how I always respond to these type of statements: the point is not to see how fast you can move forward, or how many new ideas you can move forward with at once, the point is to just move forward! Forward movement matters! If you’re embracing new ideas by trying them, refining them, and trying them again then don’t discredit yourself. You’re in a learner first mindset and that is huge!

I decided to explore my creative side again by using Canva (my newest learning adventure) to recreate a quote that I love to share with teachers I’m speaking to. I tried to find the original source of the quote but all I could turn up was that the author is ‘unknown’.

It's not about being the best...