Beyond the Edge

I admit it. I feel as if I am struggling to keep up. After 4 weeks of the start of the school year, I am only now beginning to feel as if I can surface for air. My desk is still a mess, there are laptops that need to be assigned, iPads that need formatting and lots of emails and phone calls to return.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this feeling. Every teacher in a traditional model school feels like this as the new year starts. There are new names of staff and students. There are new challenges with curriculum changes, policy changes, room changes. What worked last year either doesn’t work with this year’s group of students or staff, or it just needs to be freshened up to engage the learner.

So, why is it like this every year? Why does it seem particularly more difficult THIS year?

Age is one reason. The older I get, the less energy I feel I have for change. Demands of those above me affect it too. The new software, new hardware, new curriculum, new initiatives, new email, new… just fill in the blank. Change gets harder every year. So why do I feel the need to change what I’m doing or how I’m doing it? Because I am beginning to realize that no matter how much I do, there will always be more to do.

There. I said it. I’m not keeping up. I have been on the cutting edge of things for the last few years. But now I believe I may have gone beyond the edge. Past that point of wanting to know the latest and greatest. Mostly because the technology changes so fast. Probably because I’m realizing that I want to enjoy things outside of work.

So what do I do?

I reinvent myself again. We all need to do that. We need to realize that what might have been important last year is not quite as important this year. Or that what was important then, but was not addressed, has become most important now. Heavy stuff.

I am not going to do less at my job. I’m just not going to take it home quite so much. I’m going to find those things that I used to do that brought me joy while still doing my job well. I’m going to try to multitask less and focus on what matters more. Simple to say, but not so easy to do.

If you’re struggling as I am, take heart that you’re not alone. There is no one final solution for anyone. We are ever evolving and ever reinventing ourselves. Thankfully.

Let me know how you plan to reinvent yourself this year. And most certainly let me know if you have ideas for how I can reinvent myself to be more productive and stay on the right side of the edge!

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Professional Development on Steroids

Spending a day with like-minded, creative people is amazing! The collective wisdom of the Instructional Technology Facilitators (ITFs) in my district rivals any R&D group. 

What makes this group of people so inspiring, is that they treat every meeting like it was their first     visit to a natural wonder. They are excited, love to share what they’re doing and make everyone around them energized to be part of the group. 

Now, I know for a fact that they are deep down, bond weary tired from interacting with teachers, students, administrators and email but they still seem to have amazing things to share. 

Makerspaces, coding, robotics, Breakout EDU (look this up – it’s a challenging set of puzzles), Coaching, teaching, inventory, scheduling… And the list goes on. And so, seemingly, does their energy. 

As a half time ITF with multiple responsibilities, I work to be time efficient. But I could never do what I do without these incredible people. Every gathering with them – even in social situations – is like professional development on steroids. 

Want to have that kind of meeting? Tired of someone talking at you? Then be the change. Ask your colleagues what they want to learn/share. Do break out sessions by interest. Led those leaders lead. Encourage the quiet ones to feel the energy and run with it. 

I couldn’t ask for a better place to work or better people to work with.  Can’t wait to jump in again tomorrow with all my new tools. I hope they feel the same way. 

Marlo Gaddis of Wake County School System
Marlo Gaddis of Wake County School System

Using Google Classroom Starting in 2nd Grade?

I’ve been using Google Classroom with 2nd graders since last year. The difference it has made in my technology instruction is amazing! Each student can focus on doing creative work either alone or in collaboration with others no matter where they are.

google_classroom_logoFrom the instructor side, Classroom gives me the ability to control what my students see, where they go, and the images that they use. I can check up on their work throughout the week, even though I only see them once each week. Their homeroom teacher can assign things that are shared between us, so I can truly integrate with what is happening in the classroom.

My second graders can access the Code.org accounts through the Classroom as well. I keep links to Code.org and links to a TIP chart (Term, Information, Picture) in digital form in the ABOUT section of the Classroom for easy access.

My students can navigate through Google Docs, Google Slides, and Google Forms easily. They still struggle with spelling, reading a lot of words and following some of the directions, but the grasp the importance of adult communication. They are so excited when they get to collaborate on a document and when I comment on their work.

Google Classroom is a great platform for young and old alike. Professional development works very well in Classroom. Staff development and online courses flow nicely through this simple Suite. Just add Google Groups to the mix and you have a discussion board that is rich with conversation.

Virtual Classrooms are amazing!

The Power of Personal Online Professional Development

It has always been a challenge for me to find enough time to really communicate and train my staff the way I think I should. It’s not due to lack of motivation on my part. It’s not due to lack of need on my learner’s part. The biggest stumbling block becomes time. There is never enough time – at least not enough during the school day, a workday or well, any other day!

The move to online professional development that is self-directed has made all the difference. While I’d prefer that best practices teaching be standardized in some way, the personal aspect of being able to provide content that “speaks” to my learners in my own voice is crucial. Each trainer or coach needs to provide that personal touch that pulls in their audience.

It has a lot to do with surrounding oneself with greatness. Take, for example, that vibrant person that you learn something from every single time you are around them. They seem to just ooze the best tips, tricks, and ways to do things. They are dynamic, even if they are quiet. One is drawn to what they have to share and may be found following them on Twitter and even to lunch. But, they are willing to share. They are quick to offer a solution. These are the people I like to surround myself with.

I can send people to YouTube where they can search for their topic. But they want to hear it from me. They want to hear about my personal connection with this tool or method. Making it personal makes it real. It’s no longer just the learner and the computer. It becomes the learner, the computer and the coach who is on demand 24/7.

So, I will continue to surround myself with great people. I will continue to learn about my profession, as it changes daily. I will continue to provide the best professional development that I can so that my learners will grow and become leaders themselves. What a great year it’s going to be!

 

Technology Can Bring Even A Seasoned Veteran to Their Knees

It never fails. Intelligent teachers, attempting to learn more about current technology, feel lost and confused when presented with something new. How is it that these well educated, competent adults find themselves feeling like the first day of Kindergarten?

The simple answer is, that educated adults feel we should already KNOW how to do things. “I’m smart. I have a Master’s degree. Why can’t I understand Twitter?” The answer, really, is because you ARE smart. Children learn things quickly and adapt as the technology changes mostly because they don’t know anything else. Those of us that have been around several decades – or more – aren’t as quick to accept the steep learning curve or the new vocabulary.

One friend of mine commented, “I don’t have to learn about the Internet. It will be a passing fad and won’t be around more than about a year.” Oops. Prediction slightly incorrect.

Just when we get comfortable with how something works in the Cloud environment, it has a new update. Things get moved. It’s made “better” or at least different. As a teacher in an online environment with adult learners, this makes it constantly changing. Not such a bad thing, mind you, but I can’t just create my assignments and rest on my laurels. Matter of fact, I can’t do that with my face-to-face elementary students, either.

Even though our knees need a few moments of bending and resting, falling is a bit tough for those of us that have a few decades behind us. The easiest cure for this issue is keeping up with the right blogs and feeds. My favorite, Educational Technology and Mobile Learning, has captured my heart and brought me to my knees – a lot. They never fail to provide me with a new tip, a cool update or an awesome infographic.

Don’t be afraid of the new stuff. Dig in. You won’t break it. Really. Your professional team will suddenly expand if you join a Twitter Chat or follow some folks that are like minded. Technology changes every day, every hour it seems. Grab hold and let’s go for a grand ride!

Twitter For Professional Development 

If you haven’t tried Twitter for your professional learning, I highly recommend you explore it. There are so many people that provide great insight. 

Unlike other social media sites, users must be succinct in their posting. 160 characters are all that are allowed. Getting to the point is imperative. 

What point do you want to make about your profession? Or your take on educational matters? How about your favorite tech tool?

Explore Twitter for Professional Development. It opens an entirely new world. #TwitterPLN #educatorPD

Getting Started with Twitter