After going on a school visit to Iolani yesterday, the concept of keeping up your A-game as an instructional technology professional came up. What does it mean to stay on your A-game? How do you create a PLN? What do you do for your PLN? How does it work?
To me, keeping up your A-game is about keeping up with a PLN revolving around teaching, ed tech, pedagogical thinking, metacognitive thinking about education, and self-discovery. I truly believe that the only true form of evaluation is self-evaluation and so, if one is not willing to self-evaluate, be honest about one’s shortcomings and fears, and be willing to change, it is inevitable for that person to keep telling the same stories over and over again without creating new memories, new thinking, and new life. Thus, I keep trying to press myself to learn new things, try new things, evaluate how “my trying” went, and then share my experiences with others to bring light or a new perspective to their learning. That is how I keep my A-game: learn, try, evaluate, and share. If I don’t do this, I will remain the same educator as I was yesterday and that is not okay for me. It might not be pretty but Bev Bos, an early childhood educator, preached throughout her life, ”Experience is not the best teacher, it is the ONLY teacher.” So, here are the concrete ways I stay on my A-game:
LEARN: I learn through reading, listening, processing with others, and just truly reflecting about what I encounter. Here is my Reading List which I consume through blogs, Tweetdeck, conference materials, and email newsletters on a daily and sometimes weekly basis.
1. Tech and Learning‘s weekly emails…always read through at least half of the articles from Tuesday’s newsletters…I usually read interesting stuff from Friday’s newsletters.
2. The Committed Sardine: I usually read the one thing that catches my attention and I often go to the source of the article to find out more.
3. Mashable: Because I get Mashable’s emailed newsletters and I follow them on Twitter, I get a lot of tech news from them and I usually consume at least a couple of articles a day.
4. iCreate Magazine: I will get this via my Google Reader and will read what I can when I can but they usually have great stuff with regards to Apple products or apps and I frequent their tutorial page for ideas on how to better my own youtube tutorials.
5. Values.com: I get a daily email from Values.com to help keep me on track with a cool quote of the day.
6. Word of the Day: I get this aggregated from www.dictionary.com to my homepage, iGoogle, as a widget and often mouse over the word to understand the meaning. I incorporate this as my hook to start my classes off each day. I also try and use the word once that week.
7. Tweetdeck: Because I follow quite a few ed tech leaders on Twitter, I am amazed with what I find when I actually click on their links they tweet out. I often go to resources on the web I have never heard of before and find it interesting that at those resources, there are links to even more resources. Great stuff, always!
8. Public Library: Because I have young kids, we are always going to the Public Library right down the road from my house and borrowing books because I don’t want to buy them a whole lot since they only read it once, maybe even twice, and then they’re done with that book. So, we go almost every Sunday, if not every other Sunday, and I often borrow a ton of audiobooks which we listen to in the car to and from school, and then I borrow the past issues of Macworld, Wired, and PC Magazine. I usually like to look at these when I am waiting for my kids to get through their soccer practices and my computer battery is dead. Other than that, I usually will go to their online articles and resources after reading the print article. Wow, I get great stuff from here.
9. Email: Because I am on a wonderful work team, I am constantly getting pushed fantastic stuff by them via email. We are always looking to help each other and find cool stuff for one another.
Here is a complete listing of my email newsletters that I try and keep up with:
- Tech and Learning
- Marshall Memo
- iCreate Magazine
10. Conferences: I am blessed to have been able to attend the ISTE 2010 and 2011 Conferences and I have walked away with awesome notes from each conference! I use these notes throughout the year to help me advance my own thinking, my own fear of trying new stuff out in my classroom, and as a reflective tool or possible resource for others.
TRY: I have a few places that I try stuff out…here are a few.
1. My class: I teach a class called Explorations in Education and push my students to learn educational concepts through technology driven project based learning. Sometimes I am scared to try stuff but because I know in my heart that I am training them for their world, I need to push myself to try new things or I won’t be doing them any service.
2. My own children: My poor kids get me as a Teacher Mom…probably the worst type of Mom because we know all of the excuses, all of the right things they are supposed to do, and all of the angles. So, I try stuff out on them all the time. They have created recordings of their own reading, learned internet safety concepts, how to create short music pieces, short movie pieces, recorded Keynotes, and how to show Mom that they have done their homework by taking screen shots of their work and emailing them to me so that I know they have finished it. I know, call me psycho but I want to make sure they are on task…
3. Myself: I try and take advantage of the opportunities given me. So, because I coach little ones soccer, I tried out how to create a multimedia ePub book and how to export it to my iPad so that I could use it on the field. I have recently recreated a resume like site in light of the Personal Branding Project coming up in my class. I never ask my students to do what I have not tried myself. If I haven’t tried it, then you can bet I’m walking alongside and creating right alongside of my students the same project I am asking them to do. If I don’t do that, I can’t answer questions, size up the time that it takes to create the project, and underestimate their potential.
4. My team: I try to share or create things which I think would be helpful for my team. If there is an opportunity to do something, I will do it to my very best. Nothing less is acceptable…so sometimes that means reworking something into the 8th revision and then representing it.
5. Recently, I have been blessed to share with others outside of my local learning community. Whenever there is an opportunity, I try and push myself to do new things both in the content of my presentation and in the way in which I present it.
EVALUATE: I am always reflecting with people I respect about my work, some of the things I come into contact with, and my ideas. This is an important step and sometimes it is in a formal capacity where my work is on the table for everyone to chop, edit, or chuck as they please, or sometimes it is just in my quiet but racing mind’s eye flipping the project around and looking at it from my kids’ point of view. Either way, I’m always thinking of how to do things better and more effectively.
SHARE: This is where my greatest growth has come. Honestly, I never “got” the whole Twitter craze until late last year. So, for three years, I served as an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher teaching others to integrate technology and found Twitter to be absolutely ridiculous! I mean, who would want to know that I am picking my nose right at that instant? Well, then I was enlightened by the potential for Twitter in a professional learning and sharing capacity. So, now, instead of emailing people, I will tweet out resources, links, ideas, and some of the things I am working on to those who follow me. Although I don’t have a huge following, I understand the importance of sharing my contributions with a larger community and tapping into that larger community to start my whole process over again of learning, trying, evaluating, and sharing. Yes, I do share locally and in whichever format that I can: Faculty Meetings, Department Meetings, Local Conferences, etc. However, I feel the need to model how social media can be used in an educational and professional context and am growing in this area. Whenever I get a new follower on Twitter, I am motivated to offer my best work and just…my best. Hey, try following me!
I SHARE through the following sites and venues:
So, for anyone starting out, may I encourage you to please start creating a niche of time in your day to learn, another niche to try, another to evaluate (even if it on your drive home from work), and a niche to share. If you are faithful in the little, it will get bigger and soon, you will get to be like many of us in the field who have been doing this for a little bit now who feel like we have just scratched the surface of the vast knowledge that is out there for the taking.
Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me!