Shooting the rapids.

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Photo Credit: Saucytech via Compfight cc

In my last post I wrote

Seek the deep experiences – the ones where relationships are built and learning is deep, where busy is replace with productive and purpose, passion and persistence and reflection is a key component of all learning.

At times, this can be difficult, especially when first connected. As one of my classmates commented

 we are all at different spots and we have to figure out our focus in order to analyze which pieces along the way will work both for us and our students. … I struggle sometimes because I am only home so many hours a day with my family and I don’t want to disconnect from them in order to connect online…family HAS to come first in what time I have with them. What are your personal/family boundaries as far as where/when you are connecting?? How do you achieve balance because you appear to be quite involved online?

I believe that it is important to have balance – but it isn’t always easy or possible. There will be times when things are crazy and there isn’t enough time to do it all. That is one reason that I have begun to focus on being productive, to seek out opportunities for deeper learning, deeper relationships, and deeper reflection. I’ve learned a couple things during this process:

1. Turn off Notifications – I turn off all notifications on all my apps – I don’t get notifications from my google+ communities, twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. I don’t need to be notified because someone is always doing something and it would never stop.  I only have notifications for my texts and Voxer. I have also set all my devices to Do Not Disturb except for Family from 10pm until 8am. That doesn’t mean I am not online but I don’t get alerts, notifications of email and other messages unless I know there is something important. If I need to, I can turn notifications on if I’m working with a particular google+ community.

2. Planning online time – There are times I plan to be online – I am more and more planning time to engage in online activities, writing, reading and connecting. More and more I am looking outside of  education to see what others are doing. People like Erik Fisher – author of Beyond theTo Do List, Seth Godin and Chris Brogan provide insights into being productive and finding time.

3. Use “downtime” for short periods of connections – I use downtime – in between periods at a hockey game, half-time at the basketball game, when waiting for the bus – to go online for short periods. This doesn’t happen all the time – but it doesn’t have to be long – you’d be amazed how much you can do in a few short minutes. Chris Brogan, in an interview with Jeff Brown at Read to Lead Podcast,  describes that as Time Quilting – using the “scraps” of time – when others are non-productive, to do something productive – connect for a short time. Erik Fisher also describes the need to for people to be deliberate in their decisions and planning. Both of these fit with overcoming the “Myth of Busy” to which many people succumb.

4. Don’t gauge progress by what others are doing. This I’ve seen a lot. People start to connect and it’s like a whole new world opens up. They see what others are doing and the “I need to do that too. And that. Oh, and that!” starts to happen and the busy kicks in and being productive and finding a semblance of balance becomes diminished. It’s okay to be inspired by what others are doing – it’s not okay to be obsessed. When you are inspired, it can drive you to improve and grow. Keep in mind that you are not them so don’t try to be them.

5. Disconnecting is good. It brings balance and focus. I’ve learned more and more that planning is key. I don’t plan every minute of my day but I am very conscious of how I use my time. I have just started to do a “logging of time” exercise where I track the use of my time for a day. Just to see how I use it. I’ve discovered that I don’t use my time as wisely as I should. Relationships are so important – with my children they are the most important. Building deep relations requires time “in the moments”. I don’t feel guilty for the time I give my family. But I have learned that I can be better at using my time so that I can be with them.

Making Choices

How do you filter all of the “WOW” you come across?? How do you decide what makes the cut when it comes to new and cool things to try out? There are so many new ways to meet an outcome…I have always known this and navigated “the river” but now I’m suddenly white water rafting through rapids in the form of technologies and methodologies that I never knew existed before I connected and getting notifications every few hours at minimum! I love a challenge BUT it can be overwhelming!

This past weekend I had to decide between being online for #edcamponline and attending my daughter’s convocation – virtually – and taking my son to his first basketball game. I know there will be other learning opportunities that I can access, different opportunities for connecting and even more times when I will need to make choices. Because I know the learning opportunities, although they may be “awesome”, will happen at other times while watching my daughter cross the stage for the first time will not happen again, the choices aren’t an either/or but a “which one has greater meaning and purpose”. There are times, like on Thursday nights when I co-moderate #saskedchat, that my priority is to be connected on line – it’s something that I feel is important. But, I also know that if there is something with my family that is important, it will trump even that because relationships with family are the most important. It is difficult to make choices because there is this idea that “We can have it all”. I no longer buy into the “Myth of Busy” – instead I focus on having quality relationships and doing a few things well.

What makes the cut?

There are so many great things happening in education, in schools and classrooms, all over the world. There are innovative teachers, administrators and other educators that are doing tremendous things and students are involved in many different ways, able to share their learning and ideas, participating in ways that were unheard of just a few short years ago. So how do I manage the “Wow” factor? I look beyond the “wow”. I appreciate the accomplishments of others, sharing them as examples but looking at how they connect to where I am right now and how they can help me learn and grow. In my classroom, I use different tools when appropriate. I USED TO try everything I saw – WOW, wOw, WoW, WOw, wOW – I was so busy! I stayed up late looking and planning only to look and plan and look and plan…. Time has taught me that burnout is a horrible thing, someone is always pushing some tool, device, program, strategy, method, ….. instead I now look at the learning/infrastructure/+/- of use. An example or two:

Aurasma is an augmented reality software that lets you create information that then shows up when you frame the tagged image in your viewfinder to see its “aura”.

Although I think it has some great potential, I have not used it in my own teaching – it just didn’t fit with what I was doing. I’ve seen a teacher use it and just recently saw how it was used in a library for attaching book reviews. Great idea. For me, what does it help with meeting outcomes, fit with assessment, and is better than other tools I am using? And I am using other tools!

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I happened to find Thinglink which I have used for a number of different projects.Here is the link to my portfolio presentation.

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A teacher friend was asking me about my eportfolio presentation, wondering how to incorporate them in the classroom. As I listened, it became obvious that, at this time, using eportfolios was not going to be possible because the infrastructure just wasn’t there to support them.  Eventually, the teacher commented “I just don’t think it’s possible to do them”. I agreed. Stunned silence. Hadn’t I just given a presentation about using them and all the benefits?

Given the situation, I didn’t think that the time and effort needed to implement eportfolios was going to lead to deeper learning. But it didn’t mean that using portfolios, the paper variety, couldn’t be done with a focus on learning the skills necessary to focus on improvement and deeper learning. Not all schools have the necessary infrastructure in place but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a way to develop the skills and shift the learning. It just means that, at this point in time, eportfolios weren’t the best option. In the mean time, I suggested that this might be a good way to have a discussion with someone about the need to examine the current infrastructure using eportfolios as a great place to start.

When the focus is on learning, developing transferable skills, deeper learning and growth, then it becomes a matter of finding the best fit for what is possible right now and planning for what will happen in the future. Helping students develop the skills to evaluate their own learning, seek out their passions and challenge themselves isn’t limited to the technology available. Instead, it is about using the resources currently available. Had the infrastructure been in place, then we would have had a different conversation.


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