At the end of most of my sessions, I try to build in time for reflection because it’s a great way to process new learnings, consider applications, and bring our time together to a close. One of my favorite ways to do this is to use Padlet and show the real-time reflections in the room. I’ve done this several times recently and it’s because of how one experience caused me to pause and take note. Normally, I encourage participants to share key takeaways and next steps. Not too long ago, I was doing this and several constructive comments were written regarding some choices made over the course of the day. Instead of just reading them and letting them sit there, I wrote some notes speaking to each comment and addressed each of them as we came back together before the end of the day. There were intentional choices made during the day that were important to point out and explain. This exercise was very powerful for me. Not only did I read the comments, I modeled processing them.
We often discuss coaching as an effective model with teachers and students because of the feedback loop involved. Yet, I rarely see it in action. That is not to say that it doesn’t happen. But how often and where? As part of our evaluations? During professional learning opportunities? Even if we consider session evaluations as part of the feedback loop for professional developers, do we read and process them? Do we read them, fixate on the negative ones, get defensive, and not change anything in our future work? I’m all too guilty of this myself. I’m not quite sure what made me approach this differently, but I did. And it was a powerful practice for me. I will be very intentional of doing this again in future work, as uncomfortable as it may be. It’s important for growth and a great way to feel empowered. Imagine if we all practiced this and modeled this process for educators and students.
February 4th, 2015 was the last time I sat down to blog and reflect through writing. I started off strong this year…and yet here I am 57 days after my last post. So what went wrong?
I can blame time. I can blame not wanting to write. But if I’m being honest, it’s because I’m not reflecting or even taking the time to reflect. And there have been some amazing things that have happened in 57 days. No, really.
Highlights would include: completing my first Whole30, not stopping, and committing to a Whole100; speaking at my first international conference in Mexico where my Spanish quickly returned; celebrating the 10th anniversary of the YP Summit with some of Omaha’s best Young Professionals and learning some great things in the process; enjoying the 5th anniversary of EdcampOmaha with our highest number of attendees; and finally joining Bellevue Public Schools’ first student authors showcasing their published iBooks for the NeBooks Project.
These are big events, folks. And I let them slip by without taking the opportunity to process things learned, seen, felt, or heard. For that, I am sad. It is in this process that learnings become concrete and memories become very tangible pictures. I am not reflecting, and therefore I am not allowing myself to grow.
It is my hope to change this. I want to grow. For me, that starts with reflecting.
I started as the eLearning Specialist & School Library Liaison at the Nebraska Department of Education in June 2013. This was a new position on a new team – Network, Education, and Technology (NEaT) – and I got to create it as I went. The first couple of months were really rough because no one knew who I was or knew how I could help them, nor did I have any direction in my work internally or externally. As the 2013-2014 school year started, I began to settle in by joining committees across the state and consciously building relationships to create a solid foundation in my work.
When I think in the terms of building a house (which was consequently taking place at the time that I transitioned into this role), a stable foundation is required before the framework can begin. Therefore, 2013 was my foundation pouring and curing. Which means 2014 was my framing. No, I didn’t get the whole house built yet. Building a house takes time and I believe in quality.
The year 2014 was built piece by piece to create an entire framed house. There were things that had to take place, in order for others to happen. There were many meetings, presentations, workshops, trainings, and hours on the road. There were milestones like becoming a NETA Board Member and a Google Education Trainer, introducing NDE to Google and social media, giving my second keynote, being involved in MANY amazing educonversations with everyone from Nebraska educators to state level leaders and even the President’s Education Policy Committee. Milestones and memories.
Piece by piece, every moment built my house.
I’m ready to add the plumbing, electrical, drywall and more in 2015. So what will you build in 2015?
Sometimes there is nothing like putting pen to paper.
After 3 days of Cadre Camp where I’ve taken notes on my laptop, iPad, and iPhone, it was a piece of paper and my cool color Sharpie pens that created our group’s video storyboard. And by storyboard, I mean a list of all the shots to get, what questions would be asked, and follow up things to get for the editing and movie creation. Nevertheless, it was in taking the time to actually take my fingers away from keys and my eyes away from a screen that I felt a greater sense of connection to this project. I was able to make sense of this craziness…even for just a short while. It also helped that I subsequently got to cross these said things off the list once they had been completed. If you’re anything like me, there’s nothing better than the feeling of crossing things off a list (to-do, grocery, chores, or the like).
It’s kind of amusing that I would boast about the powers of writing on paper when I’m kicking off a Masters in Learning Technologies, but I am. So I challenge you to step away from the technology and put pen to paper…see what happens.
My profile came back to haunt me today…remember how I boasted about being right-brained, creative, and an out of the box thinker…well that was TOTALLY contested today as we were challenged with creating 1 of 3 robots to compete in the MALT15 Hunger Games. Darn you confident self…you so quickly disappeared when things got tough!
My green team chose the Nightlock Berry robot, with the other 2 robot models being distributed among the other cool color groups. I genuinely thought that it would be the easier of the three…
Really none of the choices were appealing (other than I LOVE me some Hunger Games). I’m the English and Social Studies student who stayed FAR away from Math and Science. They didn’t come naturally to me. So I automatically felt deflated, incompetent, inept, and an overall weak link among my group. I tried to get out of my head to get past this, but I just felt miserable…figuratively and literally…I managed to make myself sick. WHY? Do I really think that little of my own abilities that I would cause so much stress on my body? Apparently.
After helping Joel successfully create our first ramp to be used, I moved into my role of documentarian to capture our process – which is a BIG deal here at MALT! I pitched in when I felt that I could, but I still fought that nagging feeling all day today. We’ve built the robot and will program it tomorrow to see if our model will truly accomplish what it needs to.
Personally, I will continue to work on myself and reflecting how today affected me so greatly. I like to think out of the box, but certainly not be out of my element.
This past Thursday and Friday, I had the pleasure of attending my second Nebraska Educational Technology Association (NETA) Conference, which also happened to be the 25th anniversary. Dedicated and passionate educators from all over the state of Nebraska, as well as surrounding states, all gathered to learn how to better their craft.
Here are some of my takeaways from the conference:
– Kevin Honeycutt is an amazing speaker and had everyone in the audience, overflow room included, hooked. Know why? Because he is an incredible storyteller. Kevin openly shared his own experiences growing up and how educators in his life helped shape the man he became. He challenged us to love kids, no matter what. While this certainly isn’t life-changing, it IS. Too often, we get caught up by the labels that kids bring with them – ELL, below-grade level, Sped, HAL, Free/Reduced Lunch – and we simply forget to LOVE them. We can make the biggest difference in the lives of our students if we just LOVE them.
– The Conversation Strand in the menu of session offerings is by far my favorite. While this is only the second year of the conversations, it is the most like an EdCamp session, which is so dynamic because there is no set agenda. There is certainly a topic that is addressed, but who knows where the conversation will lead. What better way to present, than to facilitate an honest dialogue and not just learn from the presenters, but everyone that’s present?
– The title “Rocks or Sucks…Your Call” is scary to some, but appealing to others. For those that dared to see what this was all about, we had a great discussion on hot topics in education, including no zero grading policy, year-round school, BYOD, and the flipped classroom. I’m thankful to those that participated in this conversation and weren’t afraid to vocalize their opinions.
– Travis Allen, founder of iSchool Initiative, is a smart young man with a bright future. I appreciated that he did not have a formal presentation on “Going Paperless”, but rather had ideas that would lead to a discussion. He started the discussion by showing his idea sketch, which highlighted the various areas that going paperless would affect. As a visual learner, this was fabulous!
– School districts like Lincoln Public and Bellevue Public are doing some great things in regards to training their own staff on how to integrate technology and empower teachers with the skills necessary to teach students 21st Century skills. We are just starting down this road in my district and are open to ideas and models to see what works best with our staff. I look forward to helping us get there.
– I love getting to interact with my PLN face-to-face! So many of my interactions are through Twitter and Facebook, that I often forget how great it is to just hang out with people who share the same passions. Over the past year or so, I’ve learned that there are some incredible local educators that are becoming more active online and I’m so glad they’re making their voices heard. It’s people like this that are continuing to move education in the right direction.
– Some may have questioned why I, as an ELL teacher, would be attending an educational tech conference. To them I say, how could I NOT go? My students are different only because of the languages that they natively speak. To be honest, I don’t see how the two could be separated or compartmentalized, as if they have nothing to do with one another. All students deserve to learn with real-world tools that they will see and utilize in their future. What better way to prepare them for their future, than to have all teachers that are involved in their learning know best practices to engage them and help them along the way?
Overall, it was a great conference with new tools, apps, and ideas to take back. Can’t wait for NETA 2013!
What more can I say about EdCampOmaha that hasn’t already been said? There were over 100 educators from nearby and across the country who came to take part in this event. Not only were they ready to learn, they were ready to propose a session topic and lead a conversation with others. It took passion, a desire to improve the learning of our students, and courage.
Passion is a huge factor in the individuals who participated in EdCampOmaha, but more than anything, I see courage. Registering and actually attending an EdCamp requires one to step out of their comfort zone, particularly if they have grown accustomed to school district PD, because it is not your average conference. Joining conversations demands that one express their opinions, beliefs, or experiences with a wide audience because talking drives action. Leading a session indicates the desire to start a discussion about a given topic to reflect upon personal experiences and compel others to share their expertise, opinions, or questions. Creating and utilizing a Twitter account during a conference such as EdCamp takes risk to slowly begin to understand the comprehensive nature of a Personal Learning Network. The realization that it takes an incredible amount of humility to understand that failure in front of peers and students (yes, students!) is powerful and shows our own humanness.
We are all passionate and devoted educators, but we are also courageous. Try something new. Sign up for an EdCamp near you. Share what you do with others. Show fellow teachers what your students can do.