This day was just SWEET! It started off with a trip to Voodoo Doughnuts, where I spent $12 on delights with names like Captain my Captain, the Loop, Voodoo Doll, Raspberry Romeo, Portland Cream and Bacon Maple Bar (yes, I bought all of these). Mind you, I didn't eat them all in one sitting (in fact, they are sitting here on the desk beside me in a lovely pink box that humorously explains the ABCs of good doughnut making); but as I sit here thinking about how much I'd like to tear into one, I realized that this was actually a perfect analogy for my day.
I was recently reading a blog post by one of my favorite geeks, Alice Keeler, in which she argued that there should be an O appended onto the acronym for the SAMR model (making it officially Irish, as in "O'Samr"?).
Think of a lesson like a Voodoo doughnut: The lesson itself is the cakey goodness. You mix the ingredients together (think Madeline Hunter - all the parts of any good lesson, regardless of the tools used), let them rise (wait time), then bake them in just the right shape (standardization), at just the right temperature (intensity) for just the right amount of time (differentiation). Alone, it's delicious: sweet, soft, chewy, and perhaps even forgivably flaky, right?? I'd choke that down! But we all know it's missing something. So you add some icing (pedagogy) to sweeten it up just a bit. Yummy. Wonderful. But it needs a bit of crunch. So you add the toppings (technology). It takes that already delicious thing, and takes it from good to great. Using an interactive projector might be like adding bacon to a maple bar: crunchy, soft, salty, rich AND sweet = engaging, differentiated, rigorous, rich, and fun. On the same side of the fryer, just getting iPads in your classroom because all the other kids are doing it could potentially be like putting sugary cereal on top of a frosted doughnut: crunchy (unless you've let it sit in a box all day), soft, sweet, and more sweet = good+good+good! All of these individual components are yummy enough to stand alone, but I'm here to tell you that too much of a good thing kills the doughnut. Only about half of that cereal topped, frosting slathered thing made it into my tummy - it was just TOO much! Now I'm not saying that doughnut wasn't absolutely delicious, and I'm DEFINITELY not saying that iPads don't do amazing things to enhance classroom instruction, but I am saying that it's all about the balance. A little bit, in just the right proportion, goes a long way. And just like Alice pointed out, sometimes the technology actually stands in the way of a lesson that would have been even more delicious on its own.
Now that I have sufficiently blended those metaphors, let me get aROUND to the point: what I learned today.
Some of the stuff we try is going to fail.
As speaker Tom Daccord pointed out in his session, "School Leadership & Social Media," it's ok NOT to get it right away. He was referring to Twitter, and the value of observing and listening while starting out, but "IT" could be anything we do (especially when it comes to integrating technology). Just like our students, we're not always going to pick things up right away; we might be reluctant to step out of our comfort zones, or buy into the newest trend in education, and for the most part, that's ok. We have to be willing to fall - flat on our faces - when the bike hits the train track (or the curb, or whatever that crazy image depicts).
Here's the big but, though: observing, listening, and simply collecting information are all forms of lurking. Whether that occurs in social media or in real life, innovation doesn't occur by lurking. True engagement comes in the form of asking, answering, and sharing. It's ok to try, and it's ok to fail, but our students' future depends on us not being lurkers. The world is changing fast, and we need to be willing to change with it. As presenter extraordinaire Jeff Utecht put it (his session, "Moving from Consumers to Producers of Knowledge" was incredible, by the way!), "The world has changed from having an “on/off” switch to simply being always on." We are constantly connected (as evidenced by the iPhone propped on my keyboard so I can continue to watch my Twitter feed and type this at the same time!), and this has changed how things are happening around us; we, as a society, expect to be connected. If we, as educators, don't engage in that world ourselves, we are robbing our students of the opportunity to learn how to navigate it safely. If we don’t allow them to make mistakes now, how will they learn to recover from them when they attempt to navigate the world (both real and digital) on their own? And should we not give ourselves that same permission?
The moral of this part of the story, IMHO (take a chance - look it up), is not to be afraid to fail. We would never get good at anything if we didn't know what it was like to not get it right. As my friend and colleague Jamie Jarvis says, to FAIL is just to make a First Attempt In Learning!
Sharing is caring!
Here's another thing I've learned here: we have some pretty amazing things going on in Billings Public Schools! We have been a Google Apps for Education district since 2009 - believe it or not, there are MANY people here, at the National Council for Computers in Education, who didn't even know there was such thing as a Google Document! Thanks to Desiree Caskey, we have had a phased, scaffolded model for technology integration (TILT) since around 2005 - my first session yesterday was presented by a team who just started something similar within the last two years! We have classrooms with 1:1 devices, we have teachers using web 2.0 tools regularly, we have access to YouTube, we have a filter that allows us (as teachers) to communicate and collaborate via social media . . . we are so lucky! When I look around at people's faces during these sessions and see how they are flabbergasted by the new information they're hearing, it truly hits home that we don't even know how good we have it!
One of today's sessions, "30 in 50 Tech Savvy Tools," by Jason Neiffer and Mike Agostinelli, "introduced" 30 (actually I only counted 26) of the newest and most promising websites and applications they had found for 2015. Out of all of these, I had only actually used or heard of 7 of them! This made me extremely happy because I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE learning new things. Here's the thing, though - teachers in Billings are using 7 of the 26 NEWEST AND MOST PROMISING WEBSITES AND APPLICATIONS out there this year!
What I love even more, though, is that I get to come home and share the other 19 of them with YOU - and that makes me very excited! One of the other powerful things I realized here is that it's GREAT to share and that we all need to do it more often! Teaching and learning are reciprocal; sharing not only reinforces my own knowledge of the tools and resources, but I get the opportunity to learn from those with whom I share because of the experiences they bring, the questions they ask, and the new information they share with me. This is good for all of us! When you get your hands on that list of 26 cool tools, you're going to add to it, because you will have heard of or used something similar. You will [hopefully] share the list with someone you know, who will add to it because of what they know - and this, my friends, is learning.
Yea, we might screw it up, and yea, we might show it wrong, but that's learning! We're nervous, we're self-conscious, and afraid to do something that might make us look silly or unprofessional, and therefore it's easier just stay in our little walled gardens and keep things to ourselves. But then who would ever get to learn anything? First attempts in learning benefit all of us. Those failures are what make us better learners - and isn't that why we do what we do? So to the sharers, keep sharing, and thank you for what you do! To the lurkers and the consumers, consider allowing yourself to step out of your comfort zone and take a risk - you all have something SWEET to share . . . and I might just bring you back a doughnut for trying!