Tuesday, December 12, 2017

December: The Month of Giving and Receiving

A core part of my role as 21st Century Learning Coordinator is to share: Share new tools, share ideas, share connections to others doing great things, share learning spaces, share books, share technology, and of course, share time. We live in a culture of sharing. In the spirit of Oprah's favorite things, if I am to share my favorite things, it's quite a list. When it comes to learning and technology tools, I can narrow them down to just a few, although my big list is quite long. Since you are sharing your time with me, I'll share my my short list:

  • littleBits- I simply love them. They make engineering and technology accessible to all. Check out our own littleBits page: https://littlebits.cc/inventor-clubs/lion-littlebits
  • Hummingbird Robotics- Even with the invention of so many similar products, I still love the good ol' Hummingbird kit. It comes with a microcomputer, LED lights, sensors, motors, and servos to allow the perfect combination of building something unique from scratch and then incorporating the technological components. The learning curve is large and the process is rewarding with this tool.
  • The Library- Whether it's our school library or my public library, the library has it all. When I need to explore a new topic or dig deeper into something I seek to understand, it's the books and journals I value so much along with the unlimited access to online information. There's no place like the library.
  • Colleagues- Lately, I've been doing a lot of collaborative lesson planning and there is definitely something special in how the lesson evolves into something great when more minds are involved. We all bring our own creative experiences to the process. Our unique experiences and ideas makes a mixture full of magic, which adds more energy and passion to the process.
To share is to give but it is also to receive. We receive the satisfaction of knowing we took part in something bigger than ourselves. We receive the good feeling of being able to help others and find satisfaction in that feeling. Discovering new technology and/or learning tools and learning new ways to use the old keeps learning and teaching interesting. I look forward to more of the same in 2018.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

One Small Delight

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Should I be honest? This was my first thought when I sat down to write this blog post about one small delight each day for which I am thankful. I had to ask myself this question because my answer may come off as selfish. Coincidentally, my team just discussed our results of an abbreviated version of the Myers-Briggs personality test and it was noted that I highly value time alone to decompress and recharge. This is so true. The results of this personality test are giving me the courage to answer the above question truthfully. My small delight each day is simple. It is 8:30pm. Yes, you read that correctly: 8:30pm. 

This is the time in which the house goes quiet. The active members of my household are either reading, working or sleeping and I can decide what I will do for myself. Will I sleep, read, watch T.V., talk on the phone, peruse social  media, or or do something else? It is the freedom to make this choice that I so love. It is that time when I can reflect on the day, regroup, and renew. I love it. I look forward to it. I am grateful for it. It may not sound glamorous and it may seem selfish but it is my truth. 

As my kids age and my evening responsibilities grow, sometimes that precious time feels harder to come by. I hold out my hands in an attempt to grasp onto it but reality gets in the way. It just doesn't happen on certain days. I then start to appreciate it all the more...looking forward to when I can reunite with the quiet of an 8:30pm.

I delight in that moment on the days when the activity slows down and the calm returns. It reignites me for the next day of active learning, teaching, and exploring. It fuels me to give of myself the next day. It is my cycle of giving and receiving. Once again, I am reminded to hold it dear this Thanksgiving month.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

It's All About Connections

Inspiration to try new ideas

One of the mantras I think about often is how difficult it is to learn from someone you don't like. For kids, this is certainly true. For adults, however, I think that when we encounter people we don't like, we do in fact learn from them. We learn strategies of what we can do better when WE attempt to connect with others. I like to think that we are all a work in progress in this regard. When we connect with other educators through social media, however, we often we don't dive deeply enough to learn whether or not we would "like" someone. We don't need to dive so deeply. Instead, we can glimpse into their daily operations, which they curate for us to see and from which to learn. Being a connected educator allows me to focus on what I need and get inspired from small pieces of information that others choose to share. There are times when I LOVE what I see and decide to reach out and develop a more meaningful connection. As a connected educator, I control the depth of the connections and the frequency of the connections. I am the "pilot" and as a result, there are only advantages to being connected. 

Personally, the most powerful aspect of being a connected educator is the inspiration to grow. I discover the motivation to try new endeavors, find a support system for my specific goals, and the courage to share beyond my own work space walls. Sometimes we learn from being in front of the room. I have found that a great way to be brave and ease into sharing is through professional social media networks. Receiving feedback and/or encouragement helps drive me forward and work toward building relationships in which I can share my own accomplishments (and failures) face to face. I have discovered opportunities that bring me to other geographic locations where cultures and ideas look and feel different adding to my own toolbox of knowledge. 

Only good things have come out of being a connected educator. Connections help drive the will to grow, to stretch my knowledge base, to meet new people who are doing great things, and to reflect on how I approach teaching. Being connected encourages introspection and therefore, leads me to personal and professional growth. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

A New Beginning

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One thing that is different from a year ago that I am grateful for is experience. In January, we opened our school's new Innovation and Design Studio, which has meant quite a bit of personal growth and learning on my part. While learning is always happening in my role, and is something that continues to motivate and inspire me, I would say that in the last six months, my learning curve has been significant. With a bit of teamwork and a lot of troubleshooting between Atlanta and Russia, I taught myself how to 3D print original designs. I also learned how to build a circuit using an Arduino board and the Sketch program. I went to a conference that taught me how to teach coding to five year old's in an age appropriate manner, that reminded me of the value gained from different perspectives and diverse experiences, and that gave me a community of others whose roles sometimes feel like a "catch all" while free falling both at the same time. I also had the great pleasure over the summer of being part of a virtual book club with other technologists that aspire to motivate others to step outside their comfort zones. It was a valuable experience to be a part of this virtual community from which I was able to learn so much. For all of these rich experiences, my greatest pride over the past year is experience itself. 

New beginnings are awesome. They are a chance to dive into something new, or even something old but with a new approach. New beginnings bring about the chance to grow, connect, and discover new talents. I'm all for new beginnings!  

Thursday, May 11, 2017

My Upcoming Summer

My upcoming summer is sure to be an eventful one, even with minimal travel. The reason being is that I have a stack of books to read. In that way, I will travel the world. As for educational books, I have a nice list. Here it is:

  • Move Your Bus: An Extraordinary New Approach to Accelerating Success in Work and Life by Ron Clark
  • The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier
  • Quiet Leadership: Six Steps to to Transforming Performance at Work by David Rock
  • Unselfie: Why Unsympathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World by Dr. Michelle Borba
  • Cultivating Communication in the Classroom by Lisa Johnson
As for recreational movies and books, that list is very long but I will just name a few:
  • Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  • Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
  • The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
  • Oscar winning Moonlight
Having more time to read is one of my favorite things about summer. I cannot wait to start!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Measuring Success: It's Complicated

How DO we measure success? This question is timely for me as we are about to embark upon our final faculty book club book of the year, The End of Average by Todd Rosen. His book discusses how we succeed in a world that values sameness. As a result, I've been thinking about this question a lot, both as a parent and as an educator. 

To simplify the answer, I would say that I measure success in a multitude of ways. As an educator, I feel success when my students choose to work on an in-class project at home for the sole reason that they love the project so much and can't wait to spend more time on it. Their personal investment in the process to create the project translates into a successful level of engagement, regardless of the outcome of the product itself. I am at a point where I am trying to inspire students to become interested in less than traditional subjects, such as coding. As a result, I measure success based on the amount of conversations that carry on into the hallways after the bell rings. Are students wanting to discuss coding during lunch, are they entering into the tech fair on their own time, are they asking to enroll in coding camps over the summer? I also measure success through participation. How engaged are the students in what we are doing? Are they enthusiastic and energized in the classroom or are they bored and listless? Body language speaks volumes.

As a parent, I measure success in similar ways but I try to think more big picture. For example, instead of thinking so much about the individual grades that are being brought home, I try to focus on whether or not my child is learning the value of a strong work ethic or if they seem to acquire more patience with their more challenging subjects as time moves on. Is their resilience level stronger when introduced to new and challenging opportunities for learning? If I can step back and answer yes to these questions, then I feel a sense of success for my children. 

I am often reminded that when I was in school, the job that I do today was not in existence. Similarly, we are educating and parenting kids to be successful in jobs that don't yet exist and for a world that we have no idea what it will look like. To that end, I value nurturing qualities that encourage flexible thinking, problem solving, and serious patience. At the end of the day, if I witness these traits, I surely feel a measure of success.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Cultivating a Coding Culture

For some time now, my team has been preaching that digital citizenship lies not only within the confines of the media center but should also be prioritized in all other subject areas too. Each teacher needs to feel their responsibility to teach digital citizenship. If they do not, the importance of this falls on deaf ears as students are unable to grasp the relevance of digital citizenship. The same holds true for coding. If the value of coding is truly going to be felt within a school culture, then all teachers must own this responsibility. Recently, at SxSWEdu in Austin, Texas, I was surrounded by likeminded educators. I learned of some amazing projects in the works to encourage the integration of coding and core subjects. 

Many questions come to light, however. How can a teacher be compelled to add one more layer to an already full plate?  How can we influence the mindsets of teachers to ensure they understand the importance of just "one more thing"? How do we carve out the time for training and exploration of integrating coding into other subject areas? Will schools soon hire Coding Specialists as they have Tech Specialists? Does the necessity for coding skills demand this level of attention? There are so many unanswered questions but these are just a few of the ones circulating. 

It is my belief that like with anything, we have to start small. Recently, I sat in on a Kindergarten team meeting and started by sharing the poor outlook on skill sets for meeting technology-related job demands. According to code.org, 512,720 computing jobs are open across the nation and there are only 42,969 computer science graduates to fill those jobs. This morning, I opened my 4th grade class by sharing similar statistics with the hope that this would motivate and inspire them to explore coding further beyond that of what we are doing in the classroom. While many of my students probably aren't thinking about their job prospects at this point in time, we have to start somewhere. Spreading the gospel on the importance of creating a culture of coding is a priority. Do you believe this to be true? If so, what are you doing to help this cause? Please feel free to share your comments.