Thursday, January 2, 2014

Finding Focus in Fourteen

Happy New Year - Old Man and a Baby by j4p4n from
Old Man and a Baby by j4p4n
Welcome to 2014! I think this year has possibilities to be just as enjoyable, crazy, confusing, and, ultimately, uplifting as 2013. I’m taking a whack at my very own list of hopes, aspirations, and desires for this year. I’m hoping this will be useful food for thought as you chart your voyage to 2014 ed tech Nirvana. No chart? Ok, at least give yourself some time to think about your direction...

I’m involved in educational technology on many different levels- edtech planning and implementation responsibility at my PK-8th grade school; board member of the Silicon Valley Computer Using Educators; involved in professional development for a few different organizations (recently, the Krause Center for Innovation) . I really do spend a lot of my time on ed tech. Correspondingly, it's easy for me to WASTE time on ed tech... Co-authoring this blog encourages me to have some sort of future plan. So, here are some ideas of mine. Might be worthwhile for you to ponder your plans, too.

Find Tools that Impact Student Learning

Student impact OR teacher productivity
I need to be more discerning when it comes to evaluating a new tool, technique or approach. I admit, on occasion, I suffer from ‘shiny object syndrome’ and need to resist the ‘oh this is cool’ reaction to new stuff. How will it positively impact student learning? If that’s not obvious, how will it (clearly) improve teacher productivity? That needs to be a standard part of my thinking.

Newer is not automagically better
Avoiding the ‘gee whiz this is new/must be better’ reaction will, I think, help me focus more on asking some hard questions. Audrey Watters (a favorite blogger) put it well in a recent Hack Education post “a lot of “me too!” startups – that is, those who are moving along a path that others have already forged for them.” A little more skepticism on my part is a good thing. Remembering that there are many nuances to implementing ‘new’ student-centered edtech in a classroom should be part of that approach. Not simply saying it's new, gotta be good. Be open, of course, but not naive. That seems right to me.

Use Social Media More Efficiently

I need to be more self-reflective and guard my time better. Like most, I’m busy. Too busy much of the time. I need to more consistently ask myself if the time spent on ‘whatever’ is worth it. For instance, while I fully understand the use and benefits of social media, I waste too much time cycling around semi-aimlessly among Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.  I definitely need to figure out how to best utilize these tools. I absolutely need more help with Twitter. Right now, my use of Twitter seems random and does not seem particularly purposeful. Need to definitely work on that. I also need to focus on a few less feeds, and a few less blog feeds. These need to be part of the (shorter) list where I focus:
  • Hack Education by Audrey Watters
  • Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension by Pernille Ripp
  • Metwriting by Deanna Mascle
  • The Principal of Change by George Couros
  • disrupt learning! by Dr. Karen Mahon

Find Focus and Stick With It

I need to focus better overall. I say that as I stare at 15 tabs open in Chrome. Sigh… Keeping my eye on the prize - how to positively impact student learning by effectively leveraging technology - is paramount to me moving forward as an educator. I ‘think’ I have an important perspective to add, and getting too far afield does not lend itself well to actually MAKING PROGRESS on a shorter list of important areas to learn more about.

For instance, I think that “Digital Storytelling” (aka “Use of Media in the Classroom”, “Digital Media,” etc.) is hugely important in the modern educator’s toolkit. It allows for student voice, it’s a great way for kids to practice collaboration, creativity and communication skills, it fits well with a project based learning approach, and so on. I feel I’m reasonably knowledgeable here, but if I FOCUS, I could really add to this conversation. Being more selective about what I take on, and where I spend my time, needs to happen in 2014.

Plan Strategically

I need to ‘slow down to speed up.’ By that, I mean that taking a bit more time to assess ‘problems’ and ‘opportunities’ - perhaps a bit more of a strategic view - is important, and does not seem to occur regularly in my circles. It’s fairly easy to jump to a solution when presented with an alleged ‘problem.’ Being a bit more purposeful in understanding the true problem or opportunity is important and should not get lost in the shuffle. Spending a bit of time (minutes not days…) assessing potential solutions fit the overall ‘strategy’ (aka, student focused curriculum augmented by technology, improving students’ communication skill, improving higher order thinking skills…) will reap huge dividends later. I need to be more mindful of that.

Focus on the Positive

Finally, I can always be a bit more optimistic. I think I’m an optimist by nature, but I also know I’m susceptible to reacting (overreacting?) to the day to day struggles moving an organization forward. It’s easy to get caught up on the negative stuff, the naysayers, the outliers, or people stuck living in the past. Focusing more on the numerous successes, the opportunities at our fingertips, and the resulting hugely positive impact on student learning is where more of my time needs to go.

Ok, that’s my top of mind recap of some ‘resolutions.’ What’s important for you in 2014? Please comment - we want to know!

1 comment:

Karen L. Mahon, Ed.D. said...

Thanks for the mention, Gene!