- 2 Kinds of Connections
As I began to look back at 2017 and organize a post much like 2016 with numbers reflecting all the training, conference presentations, school projects, etc., I realized I was looking at things the wrong way. Much like when I was in school I don’t believe that numbers and dates are the most important things, instead, I firmly believe in connections. Knowing the dates of specific events can be important, but making a personal connection to the content is something that truly makes it memorable. These connections make the difference between learning content or skills and simply consuming information about them that is quickly lost. What can you do to help your students and staff make connections to the content? What in history made it possible? What did it make possible? What links to it that students or teachers can relate to? Is there a current event, song, movie, TV show? Have you asked your audience’s input?
From Twitter and @garr_s/ @GCouros: https://twitter.com/gcouros/status/733725399239118848
Another distinct type of connect is based on relationships. As George Couros says “relationships, relationships, relationships,” without them I feel nothing meaningful occurs in schools. A learning community is not characterized by disconnected students, teachers, administrators, and staff all doing their own thing for their own benefit watching the clock tick by to freedom at the end of the day. It is embodied by relationships of trust, respect, deep listening, collaborative, and continual community learning and growth. Clocks aren’t watched and learning never stops at the walls of the school. Meaningful relationships create learning that is celebrated, valued, shared, and aligned to shared visions, missions, and, possibly most important, the WHY of the learning community. Digital learning communities or professional learning networks (PLN) (in which students can be and should be included) like Twitter extend the collaboration and learning worldwide for all members. What have meaningful relationships done to boost your learning? What stories help you to remember things years into the future? What do you do to build your learning community? How do you pay-it-forward for you learning community? Have you extended trust before it was earned lately? Do you listen to respond or to understand? Does your learning stop within the walls of your school? What about your students?
- Technology is #2
All of these questions and more have begun to shape the way I enter classrooms, meetings, and training/workshops that I provide. When I look at G Suite Tips and Tricks, Google Classroom, or any other topic I’ve presented on it is paramount to keep connections in mind and also to consider the tool second. Pedagogy and lesson objectives must be thought of first with technology a close second to enhance the effectiveness, audience, choices, and more.
Take a few moments to consider how you used technology as a teacher, administrator, or instructional coach over the past year… Did you start with the tool in mind or your desired learning objective? Did you think of an educational or professional growth outcome first or a technology product? Check out a Google Innovator project from Meagan Kelly called BoostEdu to help with planning amazing lessons with teaching first and technology second. Some more technology integration tools and resources can be found here.
- Shiny Doesn’t Mean Better
Professionally, I grew in 2017 in the areas of connections and in putting the right things first. In my training (25), conference sessions (14), co-taught lessons/projects (22), and more. I made efforts to help provide examples of uses in the classroom or in leading a school as well as to look to the skills or educational benefits first and the tools second. In the world of educational technology it is easy to be blinded by the shininess of a tool or fad so much so that you lose sight of the educational goal simply for the sake of using the latest and greatest.
Just because a technology may have been out for a few years doesn’t mean it isn’t a great thing to use, it may well still be the best tool to support your educational goal and have more blog posts, tutorials, examples, etc. out there for you to support your use. Be a discerning consumer of educational technologies when to look to enhance your teaching or leading. Now that I know my educational or leading goals, what tool(s) can best support it? What tool(s) can give a larger audience? Is this the best tool or just the newest?
- Integration of Technology vs Technology Use
One of my continuing goals as a technology integration coach (aka instructional technology resource teacher or technology integrationist) is to separate technology integration from technology use for my learning community. Technology integration is characterized by ubiquitous access to technology within the classroom and projects that are simply extensions of technology-infused lessons planned with learning objectives first. Technology use is characterized by having “found time” to add a project after all content is covered. It is a short burst of technology that isn’t seamless or connected to other learning or classroom procedures. It is often loved by students who don’t learn well through traditional instruction but is too short to make a meaningful difference in learning or technology expertise.
Technology integration brings forward much of the converse with technology being part of nearly every class, every day. Now technology related lessons occur and have great importance, but technology is always available. When technology is used, it is the norm. Passwords aren’t forgotten because they are used nearly every day. How-to lessons become less and less because the technologies have been used since the beginning of the year. Powerful creativity flows facilitated by the possibility of open-ended assignments fostered by a bank of technology tool knowledge and best-practices. We must move beyond equating technology use with technology integration. Use will never be as powerful for students, teachers, or administrators nor will it foster the skills, creativity, personalized learning, or innovation great education exhibits. Are you integrating or using technology? What resources do need to integrate more or make the change? What can you do with your PLN to assist? Are you a positive voice for change or a pessimist happy with the status quo? Is technology a shiny bonus for your students or a meaningful elevator of great teaching and learning?
- Always On vs Balance
Something I struggle with (and continued to do so in 2017) is being constantly connected, always on, versus finding a balance between connection and disconnecting. With a digital PLN (ie. social media) alongside email and other tools it is very easy to be connected every second of every day. While this makes learning a constant possibility and removed all walls as barriers, it also can overtake time with family, friends, and favorite hobbies. Take a look around at your next family gathering, how often do you not see smartphones and instead see genuine face-to-face connections? Has someone in your family or circle of friends texted, tweeted, sent a snap, etc. to someone in the same house? In the same room? Have you given up something you wanted to do because of lack of cell service of WiFi?
It is critically important that technology is balanced with time disconnected. This time disconnected soon emphasize face-to-face interactions that bring joy, contentment, and relaxation. For me this is often time spent outdoors and when there’s no cell service, it makes it even better. Don’t get me wrong, I still want a great picture of an amazing view, but I want to take it in first. I want to experience it with a loved one first. Then, even a day or so later, I want to share it for others. My wife is my rock and my first line of defense against being connected too much. She reminds me to unplug and give up my phone at times to fully appreciate what’s around me and simply relax. I have some trusted colleagues at work that do the same and help to get me away from the three monitors in my office throughout the day. It is a huge help to me and with the strain constant work on the computer can do to things like your eyes (such as losses in long distance vision), it will prove beneficial in the long run.
I realized I missed the balance mark a few weeks back when I totaled that with work, a graduate class, and Twitter chats I had spent over 14 hours on a device that day, not counting my cell phone. It is a firm goal in 2018 to not have a repeat of this day. Who can help you balance your connectivity and disconnectivity? Are you guilty of replacing some needed face-to-face interaction with an easier digital avenue? What do you do you recharge? When do you put yourself, your family first? Take a survey of your connected vs disconnected time, do you feel your in a good place?
A Leap Into 2018 with the FETC
Just last week I had the privilege to present two workshops and a poster session at the Future of Education Technology Conference in Orlando, Florida (the nation’s largest, independent education technology conference). I was honored and humbled to move from one presentation the previous year to three in 2018 based on reviews by attendees. I also got to attend many great sessions and see education legends present like Sir Ken Robinson, Thomas C. Murray, Eric Sheninger, Leslie Fisher, Adam Bellow, Kathy Schrock, Hall Davidson, Steven Anderson, Steve Dembo, and so many more!
I have decided this year that I will shared all the resources I found during my time at the conference, both my notes and presentations that were shared. I spent a few hours adding links to my notes and making sure they could make sense to others. You can also check out my website, the all new Endless Promise EdTech, for all of my resources (on the “Resources tab) as well as connection information and more!
- Pat’s Session Notes with Links
- Resource Slides and More!
- Be sure to follow and give credit to the author’s of these great resources! I take no credit for their amazing resources.
I firmly believe, as I reflect on 2017, that 2018 will be an amazing year and one in which I will hold true to my WHY of helping others to the fullest extent possible. Seeing the joy and excitement of others when they make a connection or master something that wasn’t attainable previously is profound. I’ve realized that the joy I feel in helping others is a greater joy than my own mastery of skills or tasks.
Stay tuned for the launching of my latest Google Innovator idea that will link directly with my WHY. It is my to it will allow my passion to reach more schools than just my district, help share the amazing things schools across our country are doing, and build the capacity of students, teachers, and educators to make the difference they see in their dreams a reality.
Patrick B. Hausammann, M.S. Ed.