Monday, April 9, 2018

March Madness: Competition in Education

Image result for competition quotes

Competition in education can be healthy but I prefer it to be optional. Some learners are self-motivated and they are best in competition with themselves. Competition can also lead to a one size fits all approach to learning, which counteracts any efforts to differentiate. However, gamifying the learning process is all the rage as many students enjoy external motivations. As a teacher, it is so important to know your students, consider the goals, and plan accordingly when approaching competition in education. Some individuals thrive under pressure while others deflate. Competition can bring out the best and the worst in people. 

Establishing a goal-oriented classroom in which students create personal goals for themselves and compete to achieve for their own well-being is ideal. Interestingly, this topic resonates with summer reading. Do you establish summer reading competitions to increase the amount of summer reading that occurs over the summer? If so, what is the reward if you read more than your peers? It comes back to the question: why are you motivated to read? Is it for yourself? Is it for recognition? Is it to please your teacher or librarian? The decision to build competition into education has to start with the goals in mind while considering the best path to reach those goals. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Power of Belief

Well, this is timely. The February #blogamonth topic is about doubting yourself or not believing in yourself. I happen to be on the horizon of accomplishing something new and different from anything that I have done before. Why do we doubt ourselves and what can we do to believe in ourselves? 

Above, I write the word "accomplishing". At the end of the day, each and every one of us knows that we have the power to accomplish our goals. When I start doubting myself, I remind myself of the hours and hours that I have put into achieving something. This comforts me. 

In a previous #blogamonth post, one blogger wrote that social media can make us doubt ourselves. We see so many others posting their successes and their achievements. We start to measure ourselves and become convinced that we are not as worthy. This is when we have to remind ourselves that social media does not tell the whole story nor does it necessarily spell out someone's goals. Those that we compare ourselves to may actually have very different goals from our own. This matters and sometimes we forget that. Often times what we choose to share is driven by our goals.

It is human nature to doubt ourselves. I appreciate that we are reflecting on this topic during the winter Olympics. The stories of the athletes is enough to remind us that we can gain so much from not coming in first place. We can work hard to come out stronger and better. It is all about transformative growth. Worst case scenario: We fail. From failure comes learning. From learning comes success. 

I also believe in the power of process. Many of us find comfort in ritual or process. When staring something scary in the face, doing the work and going through an arduous process can give us layers of comfort, armor, and confidence. When feeling vulnerable on the edge of tackling something new, I think about things that I knew nothing about once upon a time and later became an expert on that very thing. We cannot underestimate the impact of positive self talk. It reminds us of our own power to control our outcomes. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

January's #BlogaMonth Topic: The Most Important Lesson

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

In the spirit of the month of resolutions, I find myself being more introspective than usual. I think most of us pause to reflect and think about what we hope to achieve in the year ahead, even if we don't believe in the cliche of new year resolutions. Sometimes my goals extend beyond myself and involve how I might interact with the world in a way that is different or better. 

When I think about how I can impact my students and their growth, I think of one word: resilience. For me, it always comes back to this. If a person can learn strategies to be resilient, they can move forward from almost anything. I want my students to learn that there are so many situations that we cannot control but we can control how we react to them, what we learn from them, and how we grow forward from them. When I asked a class of fourth graders today if they knew that word, most did not. This is good. It gives me the opportunity to grab their attention and begin the first of what will be many life lessons on the meaning behind the word resilience. With a dose of resilience in their back pocket, they can confront anything.

On a separate and somewhat lighter note, I have been encouraged to share what I believe to be the worst commercial on T.V. I think it's pretty obvious: Publix commercials! They tug on the heartstrings a bit too much. Who has ever gotten through a Publix commercial without shedding a tear?

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:
  • 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

Photo Credit
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

Image result for voxer

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!