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Confessions of A Tech Specialist: I am NOT the Norm

Confessions of A Tech Specialist: I am NOT the Norm

I am not what one would call an the “average” teacher and if you are reading this, chances are…neither are you. It’s easy for me to rethink what the classroom should be and adjust accordingly. It’s a simple task for me to think outside of the box…far from the intended instructions and repurpose how we interact with tools for learning. I don’t see things as most people. Rules are meant to be broken. There is no such thing as “no” and permission is not something that I’m good at waiting for. Learning is my normal.

This is not the norm…

A few moments ago, I found myself arguing with myself against the use of a certain tool. For me, it wasn’t new…innovative or even necessary because I know how to use multiple tools to accomplish the task that this ONE tool accomplishes. I could not see beyond my own abilities.

And then it hit me…

I am NOT the norm.

For teachers who are still struggling to be where I am, this tool may just be the “thing” needed for them to get there. Maybe this tool will help them to rethink their classrooms and in doing so accomplish much more than their norm.

The point of this reflection is not in giving a single tool any credit for what great pedagogy is but in understanding my own thoughts…and limitations.

As a “tech expert”, it’s important that we see beyond what “we already do” and consider the implications on learning for teachers who are not us. I have to also be mindful of our weakest links for change…the teacher who is scared to death of change.

That does not mean that I make decisions based on the weakest but that I consider that just because something is obvious to me does not mean that it is obvious to them.

I am not the norm and now I’ll continue by looking through the lens of those that have yet to adopt the idea that different is good and must be worked towards. Doing this will enable me to think outside of my own box and into the spaces of others.

To be clear, it’s not about the tool but about the thinking.

In order to help teachers to rethink their beliefs, I have to start with rethinking my own.

It’s time to walk around in their shoes.

My Final DENsi2014 Reflection: Living in the Moment

My Final DENsi2014 Reflection: Living in the Moment

It’s true, as that they, that you never really know how much you loved something until it’s gone. You also never realize how much you needed something until you no longer have it.

I had to take a moment of pause this week as I was trying to explain what the DEN summer institute was. Yes, it’s sponsored by Discovery Education, an “edtech conglomerate” of sorts but to even classify this under “edtech” is almost insulting. It’s so much more than that…much like DE is much more than video.

DENsi is really the week that we all needed at the moment that it happens. Year after year, many of use come to this realization during the moments of “unclosing” while generally bypassing these thoughts while we live it…such an odd thought.

Earlier in the week, before the full event occurred, an admin “pre-attendee” commented that we were very much like a cult. I laughed at that statement because she really had no idea what this community was about because when you don’t know…that’s what you think.

Imagine being in a place, surrounded by people who are just as weird as you in their passions for what they do. Imagine being in a place where in the face of so much negativity, there are smiles…hugs…laughter…tears.

Imagine being in a place, where for a week, you get to leave all the problems of the world behind. You get to “not think” about the burdens of life that get you down. You get to lift up others. You get to build even stronger bonds of support. You get to share. You get to learn.

This is what being at DENsi is like. It is the single most inspiring week of your entire life…if you are lucky enough to be there.

Personally, this week was tough. So many things are occurring behind the scenes of my life and as much as I tried to live in the moments, there were times that I could not. I tried. I really did.

As I settle upon my last few hours in Nashville, the digital story of the last week is playing steadily in my head and heart. It brings me great joy thinking about it. It brings me greater joy feeling it.

Thank you to the entire Discovery Education team for bringing us all together. Thank you for being more that “suits in a company” but true ambassadors of learning. Thank you for loving and honoring teachers the way that you do day after day.

And Dear Porter Palmer,

I watched as you greeted each and every person by name. It didn’t matter if each person was newbie or a vet. You KNEW every face and I admire you even more for those moments as they meant the world to the person on the other side of your hugs. This is why you are THE DEN Princess.

Gosh, I needed this week.

PS…

If you are reading this and you have a Discovery Education account and have NOT joined the DEN community, please do go fix that NOW. You’re missing out on connecting with thousands of passionate, innovative teachers. You’re also missing out on some of the greatest learning moments of your life that may just occur at the moment when you need it most.

Until Next Time!

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Dear TwitterEdu, We Have an Admiration Problem

Dear TwitterEdu, We Have an Admiration Problem

In the beginning, before “twitter all-star” became a “thing” that isn’t a “thing”, I was an educator sitting on the other end of the social space learning from folks, following them and getting super…super excited if/when they followed me back. It was as if the “follow” gave me a magic direct path into their thoughts because I knew that it meant that my words would appear on their timeline. Those moments brought me smiles and joy because in my mind, this “small act” was a small step in meeting these amazing people one day. I had no idea that this would actually become my reality and meeting them, my personal edu-heroes, brought me moments of great joy.

Gosh, even thinking about it makes me smile.

Yet…

When other educators come up to me, offering words of admiration…I cringe. As a matter of fact, several teachers that I met at DENsi2014 expressed joy in our meeting and my following them back. Again, I cringed because in my mind, the thought was very much in the realm of…

“Oh nooo…don’t be excited that I followed you back! It’s not that serious. Seriously? I’m sorry that I wasn’t following you earlier!! Me??? Really???”

It’s odd that I can be perfectly fine with admiring others and uncomfortable with others admiring me. It’s as if I’ve unintentionally given myself permission to be negative about myself. The heck?

The Road of Inspiration

The road of inspiration should never be just a straight line from one person to the next. If we do it right, it’s almost circular with infinite amounts of intersections. I’m proud that I can inspire someone but what makes what we do even more amazing is that we are also constantly being inspired by others.

I don’t want to live in a world where I am not excited about meeting another educator that I came to know via connecting. In saying that, I have to also be okay that others just might feel that way for me as well. This thought no longer makes me cringe. It brings me great joy.

…the kind of joy where a “simple follow” is no longer “just” a follow but a connection to someone that inspires me.

A wise friend, Vicki Davis, even passed on the perfect “Angela Lansbury” response to incoming admiration….

“Thank you. I do hope that I can continue to live up to your expectations”

Let’s continue to admire each other. Let’s continue to be excited. Let’s continue to understand that in our field, inspiration is warranted. As a matter of fact, you never really understand the impact that you might have on someone else. We have to be able to share these emotional connections with each other.

The beauty of these connections is that we all have been there and get to be on both sides of this circular road of inspiring.

Now, excuse me while I go jump up and down because Yoda just followed me!

PS…

A few moments ago, one of the puppet builders that my nephew (@braedenart) admires and learns from, Jordan the Voices Guy (@jordanthevoicesguy) commented his work on instagram and followed on twitter. I imagine that when my nephew sees it, he’ll be beaming from ear to ear with excitement. I made a point to tweet Jordan and tell him what that small act, his words, meant to this little kid. I can also imagine Jordan’s smiles at hearing those encouraging words. Admiration is great as it encourages us all to continue to do great work. We should remember this.

My DENpiphany: That Moment When You Get “It” #densi2014

My DENpiphany: That Moment When You Get “It” #densi2014

I’ve spent many moments this week at Discovery Education Summer Institute (DENSI2014) waiting to learn something new. I’ve even gone as far as questioning my being here this week and taking a spot from someone who “needed” to learn new information. I’ve had a blast connecting with friends, hanging out, participating in events and meeting new people but I allowed myself to get to a place of wondering…”Why?”

Why me? Why am I here?

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We are all here with varying levels of ability and the one thing that I love is that each of us has something amazing to share. I’m sitting here now learning new ideas for using the Aurasma App from DEN Star, Peter Panico. He’s augmented his family photo album with pictures taken of his daughter throughout the year. He sent each of his family members their own photo album and through the app, they are able to experience the moments that they missed through augmented video. What’s cool about watching Peter passionately share this is that last year, Peter had zero technology. As a matter of fact, he showed up to DENsi2013 with a spiral notebook and a pen. He not only found value for the technology but purpose and he’s teaching everyone about it! How cool is that?

A few moments ago, I finished a session on blogging with a group who had never blogged before. It was so cool sitting in that circle and not only sharing my journey into reflectiive blogging but also helping this fabulous group of teachers, fellow DEN Stars, get started. As a matter of fact, they all posted their very first blog postings today! They were all so excited to hit publish for the first time and I’ve never felt so at home as I did in that moment.

One of those teachers, Kathleen Kelly, wrote her first post about fear. It was her “post publish” reaction that led me to the moment where I am now…where I “get” it. She wrote this and I encourage you all to visit her blog and comment:

Fear of technology has held me back. I fight this fear every time I need to learn something new in technology. The Den has helped me chip away at this. I may be going slower, but I am and will get there. FIGHT THE FEAR.  THIS IS MY FIRST BLOG.

Kathleen published and then found her way over to “appearance” after writing which enabled her to choose a theme. She chose the theme with birds because she liked them and the moment that she clicked to view her blog is the moment that this week came full circle for me. I can’t describe it in any other way but…Joy. It was the kind of joy that had a group of women sitting around a table in tears. I will never forget this moment.

kathleen

I no longer question why I am here. I am here for this.

Joy

 

Mid-Week #DENsi2014 Reflection: Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

denWhen I decided that I wanted to attend the Discovery Ed Summer Institute again, my goal was to do something that I did not do that well last year…PARTICIPATE. I made sure to hang out more, talk more and play more. I’ve done that and I’m pretty proud. Yesterday was the DENmazing Race and while I’m on a path of “participation”, I was honestly not that convinced to do something that could very well result in my death. (Yes, I said “death” because I’m totally being a 2 year old)

The DENmazing race is an activity that sends teams on a journey of activities where games are structured and played kind of like an obstacle course. These activities are spread across the entire campus and people are crazy competitive to win. To say that this particular activity is intense…is putting it mildly. There is running…lots and lots of running…and falling…and sometimes even yelling! (Sorry Joli!)

As insane as it sounds, I am all about “Getting uncomfortable” so when the opportunity presented itself to join a team…I did. I would not have done it had it not been for Joli Barker or Kate Nagle as both promised me that they would not let me die. (Again, 2 year old)

The activities themselves were not that bad. They were fun actually. There was singing, acting, shooting, balloon tossing and even dancing. OK, I was NOT a fan of the silly dancing. Everyone has their “thing” that gives them great fear. This was mine!  Plus, I was so…so…so…tired! (So much running…really???) Oh, and I did NOT have my inhaler which I needed…bad!

With that said, I allowed myself to participate and be uncomfortable and along the way, I accomplished a few things that I’m pretty proud of because for me…they were not easy.

1. I jump roped and not the “prissy” kind but the kind that I used to do as a kid.

2. I drank after someone. I am a germi-phobe and it was either drink or die. That was a HUGE accomplishment. (To be clear, I will not be doing this again)

3. I kind of danced to a really silly song and survived looking stupid. (I need to do this more)

There are many things in life that make me pretty uncomfortable and that’s not a bad thing. Yesterday was important because it was my first time tackling something that is really and truly my worst nightmare come true. I needed to do that because by doing it, I can now add a 4th item to my list of accomplishments!

4. I survived my first DEN-mazing race!!!

 

Why Not You?

Why Not You?

In the moments and days after speaking at ISTE, I had many great conversations with teachers of color that I encountered. We chatted about everything from where we were from to job responsibilities and session topics if we were speaking. As the conversation steered to the Ignite speech…as if that were different than an actualContinue Reading