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Opportunities, Coding Advocacy and Credibility

Opportunities, Coding Advocacy and Credibility

In a perfect world, all teachers would not only have the desire to be instructionally creative but also the freedom to do so. Academic excellence would not be based on test scores but on the backs of students excitedly learning and basking in the glow of the learning process. In a perfect world, there would be no “genius hour” nor would there be an “hour of code” because students would explore their interest at will and computer science would be embedded as early as kids were learning sight words. Also…these opportunities would be accessible to every child…EVERY.SINGLE.ONE.

If the world were perfect…

But it’s not…

Technically, my job is to help teachers integrate technology. I’m supposed to be an expert of the tech. The perception of most is that all I know is tech…until we sit down to talk and then like clockwork, I watch the eyes of the other party bug out because clearly…I’m about much more than tech.

I want to see kids learn in interesting ways and I don’t believe that technology is always a part of that. I don’t view tech as a “product” that kids must do in order to “show learning”. At the same token, I think that it should be accessible because for some…the tech is how they learn and I’m good with that.

Yesterday, I posted a series of tweets about “Hour of code” and as a result, my timeline pretty much imploded with digs about corporate initiatives taking over educational curriculum and how this was a bad one for kids because, “people have been coding with kids long before hour of code”. Apparently saying that “before ‘hour of code’, schools were not universally talking about it”, is a bad thing…even if it is true…from my lens, anyway.

I am a mother and aunt who is watching her kids being “tested to comatose state”, with zero access to technology. For years, I have watched and worked with teachers who have had creative freedom but refuse to take advantage of it. I’ve also worked in schools where teachers have no choice but to follow the framework in front of them. I fight these things with all of my might everyday and anyone that thinks otherwise should spend a weekend on my blog before questioning my dedication to those marginalized voices.

With that said…as much as I too despise “universal initiatives”, I also believe wholeheartedly in exposure to the existence of opportunities and for me, coding is one of those…just like “genius”. Maybe seeing how kids bury themselves into the excitement of learning will open the eyes of a reluctant teacher, principal, superintendent or school board member.

Maybe…just maybe, a kid will rush home completely inspired to not just play the games on his/her game system but create them. Maybe that one hour sparks much more than most kids or adults knew was possible.

The fact is that for many teachers, this “universal initiative to code”, is their first stab at any ideas related to coding. Whether we choose to admit it or not, this need was born because we’ve created a system where we wait until HS to teach these skills because that is when “we” decided that kids were ready. Maybe this “universal initiative” can spark conversations to change that.

Of course, what do I know?

Growth in Numbers: Reflecting on #GTAATX Day 1

IMG_0239What happens when you put 50 “forward-thinking” educators into a room and ask them to devise a plan to change their educational landscape or even the world?

They not only attack their “self-selected” problem. They also unearth dynamics that they did not even realize existed.

This is life right now at Google Teacher Academy and I can honestly say that I have never been challenged to think to the depth that I was today…and it’s only day 1.

Since the arrival of our official invites, we have connected through voxer, twitter and our google plus community. We’ve shared our lives, communities, families, ideas, professional problems and collaboratively ideated solutions. As much as we were all seemingly prepared for this day to come…I can honestly say that none of us were really expecting to feel what we felt today…

Like “inspired” game changers who were truly challenged to think…

That does not happen that often…not in this way.

There is a reason that many of us did not get into previous cohorts. I needed to spend 3 days with Beth Still in Austin learning by day and reflecting at night. I needed to sit down with Minnesota’s own, Geri Feiock, and hear about how her district is using SMART in transformative ways along with chromebooks to provide blended learning opportunities for students. I needed to learn alongside the brilliantly talented John Stevens, creator of Would You Rather Math, which I include in all of my “math trainings”. I needed to connect with Rebecca Vieyra, currently serving as a teaching fellow for Nasa Aeronautics.

I needed to hear Shaelynn Farnsworth’s passion fueled talk about how technology can be a voice conduit for the voiceless.

In my book, The Missing Voices in Edtech, I encourage women and people of color to seek career related honors such as this. I need to add that yes, we should do this….but do it because it will certainly make you a better person. You will think. You will be inspired. You will leave with a charge to identify a problem and follow through with addressing it.

You will not leave as the person that you were when you arrived.

You will be better…along with your entire cohort.

In case you missed it, this was only day 1…

Facing Insecurities: You Are More Than Enough

Facing Insecurities: You Are More Than Enough

As a high school student, I remember being so insecure. In my mind, I wasn’t smart, pretty, athletic or thin enough. It didn’t help at all that I was often teased by my peers or at times second guessed by certain teachers. I was the poster child for insecurity and for a certain period, I not only questioned my worth but also my continued place in the world. I am lucky to be amongst the numbers of kids who managed to refrain from being “a completion”. If you are a counselor, you know exactly what I mean.

This morning, I reflected on how far I have come and I thought back to that insecure girl from long ago. She was the reason that I wanted to teach as I vowed that any child that I met would not feel what I felt. I knew that I wanted to provide not only a welcoming learning environment but plenty of love, understanding and empowerment…the things that were missing for me.

What is amazing about my experience into teaching is that as I aimed to empower others, I found it easier to empower one person that needed it most…me.

Of all of the things that I have accomplished, I am most excited that somewhere in the midst of continuing this journey of helping students and teachers “See” themselves, I also managed to finally rid myself of the shadow of insecurities that have lingered for years.

What I found along the way was that I was not the only person that carried such self-doubt. Many of us do and we attribute it to “perfectionism” but in reality, it’s not that at all. It is our internal need to be “validated” and our negligence to see that our self-validation matters much more than what others think.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

The other day I was trying to craft my bio and as a means of inspiration, I compared mine to others (big mistake). I allowed myself to believe that my accomplishments were nothing more than “bells and whistles”. I consulted with a friend who, in only the way that he could, reminded me to check myself because I was talking pure nonsense.

In a space where being “tech focused” can be seen as negative, I forgot for a second that my tech accomplishments are worth mentioning because this is a part of who I am, the change that I have influenced and a small yet significant piece of what I have to offer. I needed that reminder and I won’t make that self-doubting mistake again.

I’m not perfect by any means but I am the best ME that I can possibly be and with each passing day, I am getting stronger and stronger…because Growth Is Powerful.

Dear Rafranz,

You are not that insecure girl anymore. You are brilliant, beautiful and fantastic. For the record, that insecure girl was just as amazing as the woman that she is today. Own this and maybe…just maybe someone else may own it in themselves too.

You are more than enough and the world is brighter because of your presence in it.

In case you missed it, that insecure kid grew up and did this.

Exposure, Experience and Wonder

Exposure, Experience and Wonder

Years ago, my son was enamored with science. He loved learning about how the world worked and “tinkering” with objects just to see their reactions. I imagine that he did this because internally, he developed his own theories and “testing them out” was just his thing. Then he entered 5th grade and with that came state mandated testing in science which, in my opinion, destroyed the “natural curiosity” that learning science provided. His learning of science, for years, has been reduced to textbooks, packets, power points and test prep questions.

Yesterday, I saw my son ignited in a way that I have not seen in years and all it took was a family outing to the Dallas World Aquarium and the Perot museum. Over the years, it has been interesting hearing peers talk about the learning habits of teens as if it were biologically normal that they give up on high school learning. They do not. As a matter of fact, it’s not that they dislike school. It’s that school is sometimes not that interesting. I’m sorry but we, as adults, hate the “death by powerpoint” experience and to be clear…so do kids.

I saw my son throw himself into the arms of science. I saw him getting excited about the wonders of the world while wondering quite a bit himself. I purchased a family membership and that purchase guarantees that on any given day, he can explore and tinker in the museum…a place that houses a robotics playground in the Texas Instruments Engineering Hall, an Energy Hall, Physics Hall and more biological discoveries than he will ever receive in school.

The best part was taking this journey with him while also providing early exposure to 9 year old Braeden, who until yesterday had never experienced any of those things. As a parent, I wonder how much I may have impacted my son and nephew by spending about $100 and committing to their learning.

For my nephew, who has been drawing animals with a vengeance lately, this trip was especially meaningful because he has only been drawing what he knew to find on google. He has never seen any of the things that he creates in person. Spending the morning at the Dallas World Aquarium was earth shattering for him. Heading over to the museum was priceless. I handed him my phone to capture “his wonders”, things that he can research later. Our next stop…The Dallas Zoo!

I wish that every kid had these opportunities and I am so grateful that I KNOW the importance of these moments.

Again…I am deeply cognizant of the fact that I am their privilege.

More Parent-Educator Wonders…

1. Why did we cancel school field trips again? The Math Alive Exhibit would be perfect for classes to experience!!

2. Why can’t everyday learning be filled with more of this in lieu of “STAAR test questions”?

3. I wonder if teachers need to go to places like this with interactive inquiry based exhibits in order to “get inquiry”.

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United We Grow Divided We Fail

United We Grow Divided We Fail

The other night, I sat with my family and watched the announcement from Ferguson in shock and disbelief…not because I expected the announcement to be different but because they were actually making this announcement in the dead of night in a community that was already deeply wounded. The fact that not one person thought against that decision is still appalling. Did he/she/they honestly think that the people “of”…and “not so of” Ferguson would NOT riot?? Let me be clear in saying that I definitely do not condone such violence and destruction but then again, I don’t condone a person not even getting a trial for his part in the murder that led to this but…what do I know?

I hated seeing the destruction of Ferguson, the teargas, smoke, gunshots, fire, armored vehicles…a revolution that could have been avoided. I watched my son care and then not care because in his words…

“What’s the point?”

I didn’t expect everyone to feel my grief in hearing that decision but I also didn’t expect such hate. Through Facebook, I watched people from my own local community and learning community cheering about an officer not charged while justifying his actions with Mike Brown’s apparent lack of respect for the law because death by firing squad is the new accepted penalty for the unarmed fleeing.

I think that the comment that hurt the worst was this comment…”I don’t understand how people are completely excusing the actions of this marijuana smoking thug”…or something to that nature…because this was from a fellow educator with a now questionable belief of what constitutes “a thug”.

Maybe I expected too much in people understanding the ramifications of living in a community that has been historically plagued with racial divisiveness.  It’s a bit odd but I thought that people would have understood that in a community like Ferguson, a fair grand jury was just as impossible as a fair trial. Unfortunately, I had to endure reading all about the “crime excusing” evidence and wait for it…the inclusion of three black grand jury members. (Yes, someone actually mentioned that)

Personally, this was tough because I could not think about Mike Brown without thinking about my own brother, a young man who has had his own bouts with the law in many forms. He is days aways from being off probation and I have watched him struggle for years with finding his place in life through multiple crimes and even a gunshot wound that was inches away from taking his life. Yet, he is still here and thankfully doing quite well. Sadly, I imagine that many of the same people would have also ignored my brother’s right to live.

I think of my son and the road that lies ahead for him. As much as I am fighting like crazy to help him become the man that he was created to be…I struggle with knowing that he too could in fact make some bad decisions. I pray that he refrains from being a chalk mark on the ground because I can only imagine what people might have to think about him.

Honestly, there is no imagining what people think of my brother or my son because I read what people thought. My son…my brother…my cousins…my friends…are all Mike Brown. At least we are clear on that part.

Call me naive but maybe I expected a little bit of humanity and humility. I didn’t get that at all. What I got instead was a big dose of “Oh my gosh…did you really just type that and hit enter?”

What Now?

If this case has shown nothing, it has clearly drawn a line showcasing what people believe. Please stop saying that this is not about race because it is. The first step to healing is acceptance. Right now, we’re still stuck in denial. We can’t move forward until we face the obvious.

Goal Setting Like a Baby

I have an 11 month old nephew who is just starting to take much longer walks around the house. Since he was about 9.5 months old, he’s been attempting this passage of life with very limited prodding from adults. I’ve sat for long periods of time watching him literally watch the people around him and it…Continue Reading

Access, Opportunity and #Internet4Schools

Access, Opportunity and #Internet4Schools

The day that my dad brought home a set of encyclopedias was an important family event. He called all of us into the front room as he unpacked each book one by one. To my parents, providing this access to knowledge was critical and I distinctly remember my dad telling us that within those books was the…Continue Reading