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.
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!
You’ve just been to that awesome conference. It was everything you hoped it would be; you learned more than you ever thought you would, you made new connections, your brain is overflowing with fresh ideas, you are a sponge and you soaked up everything you possibly could. You are ready to change the world!
A day or two later, you are still processing through everything and you realize, “I have absolutely no idea of where to begin.”.
It happens. Also, it’s normal.
A game plan is good. An actionable game plan is even better. I’ve started to be really intentional about what I hope to accomplish when I attend a conference – which is something I’ve purposely done more of over the last year or so; be an attendee more than a presenter. Don’t get me wrong, I love presenting at conferences; it energizes me a lot. There is tremendous value in just attending, even for the seasoned presenter. But I digress to another post for another time.
I thought I’d share some thoughts and ideas about what to do after the conference. Hopefully, they’ll help as you further digest and process your learning.
Strength in numbers – if you were lucky enough to get to be there with a team from your school or district, first off you are very fortunate! Schedule that post-conference debrief and compare notes. What were the common big ideas? What fired you up the most? Talk it out, swap big ideas and trade resources. More importantly, what are you going to try with your kids that pushes you (and them) to think differently about how you do things in your classroom? How is this a win for students? Even if you didn’t go with a team, it’s still important to do all these things.
Crucial conversations – To go along with #1, whether you attended as a team or were solo in this adventure, start thinking about the important conversations that need to happen; but more important think about who they need to happen with. District leadership, school board, principal, other teachers, and parents. All are key groups that you need to share your excitement with. If it’s caused you think about a new way of teaching and learning that excites you, they need to know about it! Your voice matters a lot and the right people need to hear it if you want meaningful, sustainable change to happen.
Try, try again, rethink, and repeat. – We all know how this one goes. You get really hyped up about something you learned about, you’ve planned and prepped to make it happen, the day comes, and splat – nothing goes how you planned. This has been happening for-ev-er in our world of teaching and it’s nothing new. Expect it, welcome it, give it a hug – just be ready to refine and repeat. You owe it to yourself and your kids to give it another go.
Open the windows to the world. – In other words, stay connected! Conference hashtags and other sharing spaces aren’t just for during the actual time the conference is happening. Keep it going afterward! Ask questions, look for feedback, continue sharing what you’ve tried. Share what’s worked really well, and what hasn’t (see #3). All are important pieces in a successful conference experience. Also, don’t hesitate for one bit to reach out to a presenter you learned from – they should be willing to help you even after the conference is over. I always say in a joking (yet serious way), “I’m not cutting any of you off after the conference. I’m an easy guy to get in touch with.”.
These aren’t the only ways to have a successful post-conference experience, but they are some that have helped me and more importantly, they’ve helped lead to bigger changes for the better. I’d love to hear what your post-conference processing and planning looks like!