Sunday, May 21, 2017

Realizing How Connected I Am While Being Disconnected

I am somebody who has always enjoyed social media.  I have used both Facebook and Twitter to connect with others outside of my home and school.  I used Twitter for professional connections and Facebook for my social connections.  Over the past year or so I have not gotten as much enjoyment out of Facebook as I have in the past.  Truth be told, there are many times that I have looked at my feed only to find myself feeling upset or hurt by the posting of other people.  I have spent much of this past week thinking about if it is truly worth it for me to stay connected through social media or should I just give it up.  After much deliberation I have come to the conclusion that it is time to make a decision.  Do I continue with social media or not?  Today, I have deleted my Facebook account.  In my deliberation I have come to realize it has taken me over and I need to get my real life back.  I can sit in the car (as a passenger) scrolling through my feed.  While I am seeing how everyone is spending their day, I am missing the world around me.  As I am being digitally being connected, I am being physically disconnected from those that love me the most, my family.  I probably know more about the neighbors troubles than I do about my grandson's milestones.

Today has been day 1 without Facebook.  I have seen the benefits in such a sort time.  I am able to stay tuned to a verbal conversation for more than 5 minutes.  My conversations have been more reciprocal.  I have learned that I can stand in the grocery store checkout line without scrolling through my phone and still survive.  I have learned that I need to improve my phone listening skills because I have gotten so used to conversing through the computer or the app on my phone which means  I listen with my eyes.  I have learned that I have more time and I am better able to manage that time because I am not distracted by my phone.  I let it suck me in and I'm taking my life back.  Am I angry?  No way!  I actually feel a sense of relief.

My worries?  How do I collaborate with my Instant Pot community and tap into those scrumptious recipes that are shared?  I suppose there are other ways.  Google or Pinterest is a great resource to find those recipes.  And my LuLaRoe connections?  (That's the one that really hurts.)  Do I really need to spend all that money on clothes that will sit in my closet?  No matter how many outfits I have, I wear the same things most of the time anyhow, why add to it?

Twitter is something that I have been able to use in moderation.  I don't feel as though I am risking changing one social media addiction for another.  Tonight I participated in a professional learning chat on Twitter.  This lasted one hour.  This was a healthy experience.  I did not leave feeling frustrated or angry.  Participants were able to engage without risk of being run down.  Rather, I left feeling recharged and ready for a new week.

So with that being said, family and friends, I am back!  I am going to be present with you.  I hope it's as good for you as it for me.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Going WAY Outside My Comfort Zone (Or Genius Hour Success!)

Today I took a giant step outside of my comfort zone by presenting at the Hamline Summer Literacy Institute.  This is a professional development opportunity for teachers which is strongly attended by educators from Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.  I volunteered to present several months ago.  What motivated me to present was my new knowledge and experience in the area of Blended Learning.  I felt I could help fellow teachers by sharing what I have learned and used since starting my pursuit for the Innovative Leadership Certificate program.

I was asked to arrive 30 minutes early to prepare for my presentation.  I was a bundle of nerves which made me think I needed more than 30 minutes to get set up and prepare myself mentally for my presentation.  (I arrived almost 3 hours early.)  I was glad I did arrive early as I experienced technical difficulties with the internet which resulted in the need for help from the Hamline IT department.  About 15 minutes before I began the coordinator stopped in to make sure I had everything I needed.  She then told me not to be concerned if only 1 or 2 attended as I was scheduled the same time as one of their keynote speakers.  I was concerned (and secretly hoped) nobody would attend.  Much to my surprise I had an audience attendance of 15 teachers.  With the information I was given, I was thrilled to have this many people attend.  The majority of my presentation was loaded on Google Classroom.  I had lesson samples, videos and announcements posted.  This was a refreshing change from the usual power point.  My presentation went very smoothly and the audience seemed interested in what I had to share.  Pacing was challenging and because I was nervous and talking fast I still had 15 minutes left.  For a moment this worried me but I was then able to open this up to a round table discussion.  One teacher in attendance had experience with using Blended Learning in her classroom.  She discussed how it did not work well for her.  She said that is wasn't because of the platform but the curriculum her school used was not very good.  My audience seemed the most interested in the different apps that I used and as I demonstrated how they worked I noticed several of them were feverishly writing notes as I talked.  Another teacher had used Schoology in the past and we talked about the differences between Google Classroom and Schoology.

Before I gave my presentation I had researched countless numbers of Ted Talks, websites and other sources of information to help me deliver a smooth presentation.  Many sources suggested that I know my audience and be prepared to give them the information they were seeking.  This was very difficult as I had no idea who the audience was (besides being teachers) and what they may want to know.  I had to anticipate what that may be.  Another source stated to, "stay in the lead".  I was able to do that until it came to the point where my presentation was complete and I had remaining time.  But rather than putting the audience in the lead it became more of a collaboration of experiences.  Another source suggested to remain confident.  Much to my surprise, I was able to do that.  I became more relaxed within minutes of beginning my presentation.

One of the main points I wanted to get across to teachers is that Blended Learning allows teachers to differentiate and meet the needs of many students at one time.  There is much research and scholarly articles focusing on this.  One source tells us that Blended Learning allows educators to "meet the students where they are at." (Edutopia, 2012).  I agree with that as I have been able to create various assignments to meet objectives students still need to master.  This agrees with the findings in the article from Exceptiona+1 titled Differentiating Instruction with Technology which states, "The ability to differentiate instruction to target all learning styles is enhanced in an effective blended class as a conscious effort has been paid to identifying learning styles and meeting the needs of the learner."

As attendees arrived I asked them to sign in and provide their email address.  I plan to send out a survey to gain information on what I need to do to make my next presentation even better.  Although what they may say makes me nervous, I feel that this is critical information in meeting the needs of my future audience.

I learned many things through my experience.   They are:

  • I learned that I have knowledge that is worth sharing and there are people who are interested in hearing what I have to say.
  • Pacing is a challenge.
  • Keeping the attention of the audience is challenging.
  • It is important to be prepared.
and most importantly:
  • I can successfully stand in front of the room and give a quality presentation.
I look forward to to presenting again next year!




Monday, July 11, 2016

Genius Hour Project

I am currently taking the Mindset, Motivation and Self Directed Learning course through Winona State University.  This course requires me to complete a Genius Hour Project.  I am new to this whole concept so that in itself required some research on my part.  For this project I chose to give a presentation at the Hamline Summer Literacy Institute on the benefits of blended learning in the classroom.

You may wonder why I chose this as my project.  Part of the reason that I selected this is because I feel that many teachers are not aware of the benefits of blended learning.  I want teachers to understand that this does not replace the instruction in the classroom given by teachers but it enhances the learning.  Blended Learning allows teachers to differentiate and supplement objectives being taught.  It may appear that this requires much more work for the teacher but actually, once it is initially set up it makes the differentiation less labor intensive.

There is a second reason I chose this as my project.  I feel that public speaking is not something I am good at.  Although that may be true, it is a skill that I can improve upon the more I do it.  As we tell our students, "Practice makes perfect."  Part of my goal in this project is to change my mindset from "I don't think I can do it" to a mindset of "I can do it".  Yes, the thought gives me butterflies in my stomach and I have been tempted many times to back out of this commitment.   I expect the butterflies  will always be there when it comes to public speaking and this is something I need to carry through.  Public speaking is something I anticipate will come smoother the more I do it.

My presentation is scheduled for this week.  I look forward to reporting back to my followers the success I experienced.  I CAN DO THIS!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Empowerment is Key to Motivation

Chapter 6 of George Couros book "The Innovator's Mindset" puts the focus on engagement and empowerment.  Couros points out to his readers that increase engagement we must be willing to empower our students.  By that, Couros means to give them the tools that they need to want to explore a topic deeper.  That could be through YouTube videos, reading blogs or researching credible online resources.  I agree completely with what he is saying and have experienced my own motivation growing simply by reading his book.  Often times Couros will reference a source that has me seeking out that source to read more about it or to read the entire article.  By providing me with the resources, I see curiosity sparked and my motivation to learn more is increased.

An example of this in our own school comes to mind when I read chapter 6.  The second grade students are required to research a topic of a person in history.  These students are allowed to pick the person they wish to research further.  They are able to use textbooks, nonfiction books, the internet or any other source that is of interest to them.  In the end all students are to create a costume and dress as that individual.  They then put their work on exhibit in the Wax Museum.  Through this assignment I have witnessed students eagerly researching their character knowing that they will be able to present their work to the school and the community.  I have seen the most struggling student motivated by this assignment.  Why is that?  It is because this assignment provides them an opportunity to feel empowerment.  Students are not told how they they must do their research or how their character must look.  Rather they are given the opportunity use their imagination.

Empowerment is key to increasing motivation.  Nobody wants to be constantly told what to do or what to say.  Although there are guidelines to completing an assignment or a project, allowing the students the freedom to be creative and resourceful increases both motivation and engagement.  If you have not done this in your classroom, give it a try and see how it affects your student's learning.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Growth Mindset: Do I Have It?

The focus for the coming school year is to learn and encourage a Growth Mindset amongst all staff and students.  As learn more and more about a Growth Mindset vs a Fixed Mindset I find myself evaluating my own present position.  I can honestly say that at one time I had a Fixed Mindset.  I would often find myself saying, "I can't do this.  This is too tough." Or when it came to change, I would often not see the value of that change and be apprehensive of conforming.  But as time goes on and the more I learn about a Growth Mindset I can see myself changing.  Although some changes or challenges may be tough, I look hard to see the value of the change or what is asked of me and try my best to change.

In a recent video in the Mindset, Motivation and Self Directed learning we see a gentleman about my age trying to ride a bike.  This is not a typical bike but one that has been redesigned to turn left when the handle bars are turned right and vice versa.  This gentleman is an adult and knows how to ride a bike but this particular bike has given him trouble.  But he was determined to conquer this task.  It took him 8 months to master this skill because his brain already knew how to ride a typical bike.  He had to rewire his brain to ride this bike which took him some time.  But he went into this with a Growth Mindset.  That coupled with determination gave him success.  His 6 year old son took on the same task.  It took his son 2 weeks to master this skill.  Why?  Because his son did not have the habit as strongly embedded in his brain.  The success of these two is credited also to the neuroplasticity of the brain.  The time difference in learning these skills is credited to the level of habit in riding a typical bike.  To help you understand what I am talking about I have included the video.

https://youtu.be/MFzDaBzBlL0

The brain is a powerful part of the body.  With a Growth Mindset, one can accomplish almost anything.  At times it may take longer to meet the goal, but with the Growth Mindset, it can be done.  And those with a Growth Mindset are much more enjoyable to be around.

Do I have a Growth Mindset?  The majority of the time I do and I have found that mindset allows me to feel more positive successful.  Because of the change in my mindset I foresee a successful school year for both myself and my students.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Welcome Summer!

Hello to all my followers!  You couldn't ask for a better summer morning than what we are having today.  The sun is shining, the temperature is just perfect and the birds are singing.  This must be a sign of good things to come for today.  It seems that it has taken until today for me to wrap up the loose ends of the school year and complete any professional commitments I have made so far.  Last week I taught a geocaching class through the ZED Summer Academy.  The kids had a great time looking for (and hiding) "treasure".  The first full week of the summer vacation is when we started our week long road trip down south.  My husband and I celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary on June 8th.  On that day we left for North Carolina.  But that trip was not without a stop in Tennessee to enjoy the Grand Ole Opry.  The entire trip was wonderful and we can now add 4 more states to our list of "been to's" and another set of mountains.

The week of June 13th I began another class in my journey towards a certificate in Innovative Leadership.  This class is titled" Mindset, Motivation and Self Directed Learning. "  This course requires a Genius Hour project.  Although my summer has been filled with professional commitments that would meet this requirement, meeting the course deadline has proven to be problematic.  The project I have chosen is my presentation at Hamline's Summer Literacy Institute with the topic being "Blended Learning".    I did not "settle" on this project, but this is a project that I feel the most excitement.  One thing to note, the thought of public speaking stirs up the "butterflies in my stomach."  This is something that I dread but it is something that I committed to because I needed to change my mindset from a "I can't do this" attitude to an "I got this!" attitude.  There have been a hundred times I have thought about calling the organizers to tell them I can't do this.  But I have resisted this temptation and will see this through, because I CAN DO THIS!

My presentation is scheduled for July 14th.  Watch for an upcoming post updating all of you on my experience.  At this point my thoughts are that this is the worst part of it, the thought of it.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

And That's a Wrap!

Wednesday night, April 20, 2016 the WSU Cohort #1 held its final #byronedchat.   This has been quite an experience.  We had our regulars but this time we had several make their presence known that were not even from our district.  It makes me think that if we are able to keep this going we can become just as big as some of the other chats that I have participated in such as #mnlead or #satchat.  I am impressed with how quickly we have become known by others.  I think that is because of the the strong PLNs developed by of some of my classmates.

This semester has been very exciting.  I have created my own PLN and watch it grow almost daily.  At the beginning of this semester I had 53 followers. I am now up to 144.  And reading those bios, those are people that that I consider credible in their fields.

This semester I have learned many things.  I did learn I can "go off the grid" and survive without technology or social media.  As much as I have referenced it, one must get the impression that this was very difficult for me.  That would be an accurate impression.  Because of our district wide Twitter chat, I have come to know others from the district that I have only known by name.   I have learned what an incredible team of educators we have in our district and through our discussions it is no wonder that we are considered a Blue Ribbon School.

The pace of this course was very manageable.  It allowed me to take time to explore options before trying them without the pressure of a deadline. Through collaboration I have been given many resources that will help in enhancing my teaching.

As class 2 in this program comes to a close, it finds me not only reflecting on what I have learned this semester but pondering what I would like to learn in the classes ahead.  I am excited for what is to come.