Friday, December 20, 2013

Pre-Break, Perfect Project-Based Learning

Just before Thanksgiving break, we dropped everything and PBL-ed for two days. This idea takes different shapes in schools, with some schools even terming the experience as "minimesters" or "X-term". For us, we focused on a day of #Mandellcreates followed by presentations. The guidelines simply required students to create something, in their chosen mode of learning, that either represents or enhances our school's mission and culture. This is how it played out...

Pre-Experience: A Sneak Attack for Grouping
Prior to PBL day, we had students fill out the Google form survey below which asked them to identify an activity they would choose if they were able to spend the entire school day doing it. The categories included dreamer, builder, helper, artist, and explorer. Students selected a first choice, second, and third; we specifically did not share with them the purpose of the survey as to avoid selection of group by friends rather than by activity. From there, we formed multiage groups, and in this case we were able to place all students into their first choice learning mode.




In teams, our teachers then worked on a flexible schedule with suggested time table and a rubric. These were very high level and allowed for a wide range of application. The schedule included time for brainstorming, goal setting, designing, creating, and presentation preparation. Teachers split into teams to lead the groups, with each teacher selecting the activity best aligned with his or her passion and preferred learning mode as well.


PBL Day:


working on a mural proposal
On this day, students reported to their homerooms and then split into their groups. The sessions started out with brainstorming activities to generate ideas in an open discussion and sharing forum. Students then grouped together based on interest and generated ideas to bring the idea to fruition. Here’s how this looked in the various groups:

Artists: Our artists chose from the various forms of art we learn at Mandell, and then focused on creating something representative of our school community within that art form. For our visual artists, they tackled the task of constructing 2D and 3D pieces to beautify our physical space and visually convey the values of our community. One other group chose to focus on musical creation, taking on the task of re-imagining the Mandell song.

Dream Makers: In this group, students started by finishing the question, “What if…?” related to Mandell. They then walked around the displayed ideas and checked off ideas of particular interest to them. Based on this, students discussed their proposals and grouped together to form a plan. The plan had to include the goal, objectives, resources, and people necessary for implementation.

using the 3D printer to
make a machine component
Builders: For our builders, the day began with taking a look a materials and generating ideas on what to create together. Many of the students engaged in electronics or a combination of physics related design and electronics. It was a day full of trial, error, and rebuilding. In the end, they built some astounding and truly creative machines, including two Rube Goldberg style spirit machine and one homework collection robotic dog whose main role was to mandate students to “Turn in your homework, now!” and bring it to the teachers.

Explorers: The explorer group worked on ways to extend learning outside the four walls of the classroom, drawing up field trip proposals for each subject. Some students focused their proposal on an exploration that could take place during the school day yesterday, such as a trip to the Apple store, the exploration of neighborhood environments, and the measurement of lockers spaces. Others worked on proposals for later in the year like a trip to the Intrepid (history) and one to the New York Hall of Science (science).

Helpers: Our service learning group started the day by brainstorming how they could help our community in a direct way during the day. They began by traveling around the neighborhood to do a clean up and collected four bags of garbage along their way. They then transitioned to a few projects within the school, drawing up proposals to extend the experience.

Reflection:

At the end of the day, we asked students to reflect on their experiences at the end of the day, and for the most part, students reported enthusiasm and high levels of engagement. We did find more success in certain groups, especially those for whom the experience required very hands-on and experiential tasks. The builders, helpers, and artists all experienced high levels of both. For the dreamers and explorers, we had varying levels of engagement. One take away by the teachers was the need to incorporate immediately actionable tasks.
Presentation Day:
The next day when the groups presented, the experience took on an entirely new meaning. The pieces of a larger puzzle fit together, and a shared sense of pride was palpable in the presentation room. Students manifested their agency, took pride in their own creative outcomes and in the work of their peers. The most exciting observation has been the follow up community excitement surrounding the proposals and the plans to bring the ideas to fruition.


Friday, November 1, 2013

The Power of Student-Led Parent/Teacher Conferences




The passage from childhood to adulthood is a road of dependence to autonomy. To gain independence, a transfer of responsibility must take place, from adult to child, and this impacts all areas of life from exploration of the world to learning about it and our place in it. Yet, for many young people, this shift happens all too suddenly instead of in increments. As teachers of tweens and teens, we have a responsibility to aid in this transfer, to intentionally teach agency and provide the opportunities for such ownership. One way educators can help accomplish this is through student-led conferences which help us achieve a new level of independence as well as a few other key conference tasks. They allow us to...

Break it Down: Bringing a child and parent together provides us with a chance to remove a tough barrier that often exists, even in the best of households, so that young people can communicate with their parents about their learning. In turn, parents can listen and offer advice to show support for their child and present a partnership mindset with the teacher.

Illuminate: In a student-led conference, we have the chance to shine a light on a quality which a parent may not have seen or may not have realized others see in their children...in the presence of the child who feels proud and bright in the moment. The thought which goes through a child’s mind when he or she hears a teacher say something positive in front of a parent is invaluable. This begins an open, growth oriented conversation when listening to constructive feedback. The path forward to growth is thereby similarly illuminated for all to journey together.

Build it Up: Having all constituents present at a conference means being able to give constructive feedback in a setting where more people are working together to construct. Think about the manpower we then have to build something significant, like a growth plan, like confidence, like trust!

Preparing for successful student-led conferences is an essential step. Using a tool like this Student Conference Form, students can reflect on their learning and prepare for a discussion with their teachers and parents. From what we have seen at our school, and from what I have personally experienced as a parent, this simple invitation to the conference table can be truly transformative for a middle or high school student during the key transition years of adolescence.  


Image credit: zazzle.com

Friday, August 16, 2013

Summer Reading Goes Social with Schoology

This is the fourth year I have been part of a summer reading program which ditched the traditional assignment for a more connected approach. Utilizing a tool, like Schoology as we have, to provide a platform for ongoing communication regarding the reading has had a truly transformative effect on a traditional assignment.

Reading & Learning
The reason we assign summer reading has much to do with reading and learning, of course. The fear of "summer brain drain" is at the forefront of our minds as we send our students off to a much needed, yet much removed, break from school.  Through summer reading, students stay close to their recently acquired skills, drawing inferences, forming connections to previously read works and life experiences, annotating for comprehension, etc. Beyond this, however, summer reading offers the opportunity to begin the school with a shared learning experience, and the right selection of works can also mean starting the year with a unifying theme which expands far beyond the discipline of literacy to provide a compass for a successful school year full of integration and connectivity.

Motivation
The problem is...summer reading can be a true downer! By the time we hit the end of June, everyone is exhausted and even teachers need a break from learning. Several years of assigning and assessing summer reading taught me that the same strategies we use during the school year to provoke interest, motivation, and learning don't necessarily work well over the summer when the connection to the student is lost. Even relevant, engaging, project-based assignments still, in the end, feel like school work.

Cue the new format for summer reading...the social connection. Part of human nature is our innate need for connection with others. Socializing is subsequently a very natural motivator; in fact, one could argue it is the primary form of motivation in life. Acceptance, awareness, validation, fun, visibility, and friendship are all things we desire in heavy doses even as adults, and for teenagers, they form the very substance of daily happiness. Why not capitalize on this innate need to enhance a learning experience, transforming the potentially dull (no matter how great the book!) and individual exercise into a fun way to connect and an ongoing impetus for peer discussion?

Connections & Friendships
Most students begin the summer ecstatic beyond words to be free from school, but all students I know are as or more ecstatic to return by the time August rolls around. As much as I would love to claim they miss the enthralling learning we provide (which is true to some extent, surely), I believe they mostly miss each other...and even us. Running discussions throughout the summer allows for a flexible ownership over learning as students can just jump in when ready, but it also provides a joy factor when a friend sees another friend appear in the same space after a while apart. This year, we even had one student who graduated last year pop into a discussion to say "hi" because she "missed being on Schoology with everyone".

Our Summer Reading Group in Schoology has also been the start of some wonderful new friendships. Last year, we had two students who had never met discover they were in Morocco together, both posting to Schoology far from Mandell and New York City. By the time school began, they were already the best of friends. I witnessed the same happen this year when one of our younger middle school students asked to be introduced to an older student during our Pinkberry book club gathering because they had had such great exchanges about their reading and figured out they had a great deal in common. Mentorships and friendships like these cannot be constructed with a more authentic outcome.

Modeling & Practicing
Two essential components of effective classroom management are modeling and practicing. In a digital classroom space, this is no different. Expectations must be established and the correct form of interaction modeled. Once students begin school, they will have several virtual classroom spaces, one for each discipline. This can be overwhelming to students, so it's important that we take the time to wade into the waters before diving. Using our Summer Reading Discussion group has allowed us to create this safe, smaller dress rehearsal in preparation for the big show. We are very confident that the foundation of confidence, digital citizenship, and tech savviness will now be in place as we kick off the school year.

Love of Reading & Learning
As an English teacher, I've spoken the words "My main teaching objective is to foster a love of reading and a love of learning" countless times. And yet, I've witnessed my own children lose some of their love for reading and learning through tedious summer assignments. The closer we can get to love through learning, the closer we will get to actualizing a life-long love of learning in our students. Our students genuinely love one another and their teachers, so helping them stay connected and experience the joy of friendship alongside summer learning is a true benefit of exploring new tech-enriched frontiers.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I WILL Talk in Class, I WILL Talk in Class, I WILL Talk in Class!


Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation. 

-Mark Twain



Yesterday, while discussing social media in education with Eric Sheninger and NPR’s Claudio Sanchez, a question arose regarding the stigma associated with social media. To paraphrase, Claudio basically asked Is social media “good or bad” for students, and if it is good, then why is it so negatively perceived? Of course, there are several reasons for the stigma, some more valid than others, but what occurred to me as another top culprit is much more fundamental and has very little to do with media.

The social component of social media runs contrary to the archaic yet ubiquitous reverence for silence over conversation in the classroom. While many innovative educators would much rather have a slightly noisy yet energetic and focused classroom, a vast majority of teachers and the public are still reassured that learning is taking place if students are quietly focused on “the task at hand”. In conferences with parents, the academic and social development of students is often referred to as mutually exclusive, with the focus on socialization frequently serving as a detriment to the other, much more valued skill set.

Silence over socialization is a flawed and severely outdated educational value, however. As a learner, I thrive on connection with others, picking up favorite bits of knowledge in Twitter chats as well as face-to-face conversations. As I write this, I’m very quiet and focused, and there is indeed a time for that in learning, but I am demonstrating learning and analysis in this task whereas yesterday, while engaged in conversations both online and off, I certainly did more actual learning. Collaboration and communication are two of the 4 Cs of the 21st Century Skills Framework (Partnership for Partnership for 21st Century Skills) and two of the 6 Cs from NAIS’s list. How are we to foster collaboration and communication without valuing our old nemesis talking-in-class? This is about as paradoxical as Twain’s sentiment.

Our underlying perception of social as separate from (or worse, an obstacle to) learning prevents us from embracing social media as a platform to even greater academic growth. Once we place a premium on talking-in-class and out of class, we can take a step in reversing the stigma of all forms of social learning, including social media in education.   

Photo Credit 1: NBC Latino: http://nbclatino.com/2012/02/06/17167832725/

Photo Credit 2: Partnership for 21st Century Skills p21_rainbow_id254.jpg

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Introducing #smEDchat


This is what I love about my PLN. A few days ago, I went onto Twitter to explore the use of social media in education. I figured there had probably been a chat started, and my critical thinking skills led me to infer that it would likely have the hashtag #smedchat...so, I typed it in. While there wasn't a full thread of ideas already on it, the idea had been discussed by a group of educators interested in starting it. I reached out to them, connected with Jodie Morgenson @morgetron and voila, #smEDchat was officially started. We held our first live chat today at 11 AM EST with a great group of innovative educators sharing ideas. Here's the archive from our inaugural #smEDchat. Join us next Tuesday at 11 EST for more learning together.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Teachers Have Style Too!

Something has been nagging me for a few months, specifically since returning from the ASCD conference in Chicago this past March. I’d tell you the whole story of what caused me to pause and reflect, but I’d probably be banned from presenting again. It’s not really something one should share on a public forum like a blog. On the other hand, I likely won’t have the funds to travel there anyway this year, so what the heck, right? Also at this point, I’d feel a little guilty about leading you on only to let you down. Perhaps what we could do is have you email me, and if you email me (off the record), we can have a private exchange (encrypted of course). Sound good?

I’m sure if you’ve made it this far into the post (thank you), you might be feeling a little cheated by that proposition, but I’m here to share that that, my friends, is the “taboo hook”, a presentation hook shared with me when I attended the ASCD session of Dave Burgess, a.k.a. “Teach Like a Pirate” original pirate, author, and presenter. The taboo hook is intended to snag learners, drawing them into the content or experience by making them believe it is forbidden. Essentially, you are sharing a secret...and because it is a secret, it is by nature juicy, forbidden--and highly desirable.

I met Dave the night before my 8 AM presentation when I realized I had forgotten my dongle, an essential tool for presenting. With no hope of hitting an Apple store at 11:30 PM, I frantically tweeted out an S.O.S. and Dave, being the true kind pirate he is, offered up his booty and even attended my session. Of course I wanted to support him, but even more, I wanted to know what “Teach Like a Pirate” meant, so later that afternoon, I found myself sneaking past the “session full” sign into a standing-room only “Pirate” presentation. What Dave did during his presentation was essentially turn teaching into performance art. He went through the ABCs of Pirating a class’s attention--Passion, Immersion, Rapport, Ask & Analyze, Transformation & Enthusiasm--and then he shared some “stand and deliver” style hooks. As a one-time rebel, the taboo one was my favorite.

When I left his presentation, however, I was stumped. Surely, I had just witnessed great teaching. On the other hand, all I did was stand, listen, and watch. I didn’t engage in a problem-solving initiative, collaborate, discuss, or do any hands-on learning. BUT...I learned! What Dave did for me in that session was not just share information which stuck but also inspire me to learn more about how to “teach like a pirate”.

As I learned more, though, I wasn’t sure I was cut out to be a pirate. I find that the best learning in my class takes place when I’m not presenting, or at least through a combination of teacher-centered discussion and student-centered experiences. I’m also not a great performer. I have terrible timing in my delivery, I’m not funny, and I don’t come across as particularly rebellious. If I tried to be a pirate, I believe my students would force me to walk the plank until the real Mrs. D returned.

This has had me pondering teacher style and whether we are allowing for each teacher to rock his or her best in the class or whether we are forcing all teachers to believe there is one “best” style of teaching. We all see how students thrive when allowed to play in their style of learning, so why wouldn’t the same logic apply to teacher presentation style?

Recently, Edutopia shared via Facebook a post by Principal Ben Johnson entitled “Great Teachers Don’t Teach”. In it, Johnson proposed that “great teachers engineer learning experiences that maneuver the students into the driver’s seat and then the teachers get out of the way.” As an educator whose style is aligned with this sentiment, I read it and said, “Yes, I completely agree!” Then, however, I thought of Dave, and I thought back to my own high school experiences and whom I would consider my best teacher, Mr. Craft.

Mr. Craft was charged with teaching us either honors World History or U. S. History, I really can’t recall, because all he did teach us conspiracy theory, and particularly the history and conspiracies surrounding the Kennedy family. As a teacher, I would argue that by the book, Mr. Craft was a terrible teacher. We did not learn the prescribed curriculum, we never engaged in collaboration, formal assessment, project-based learning, hands-on learning, writing across the curriculum, experiential learning. In fact, I would say we only ever engaged in auditory learning and discussion through debate. But Mr. Craft did something no other teacher in my K-12 educational experience did...he captivated my curiosity completely and inspired me to learn outside his class. I did all of my projects for every class that year on something Kennedy related (even my physics project), and my friend Ryan and I were the only people under forty when the JFK and Ruby movies premiered as we finished high school.

Mr. Craft was a great teacher because he was great at how he taught. He could not have been any other style of teacher--when he tried, he failed miserably and we were similarly miserable. When I shared Edutopia’s link and asked my Facebook friends to reflect on what made their “best teachers” great, they all made very different points. Not surprisingly, one of my friends also cited Mr. Craft.

Maybe there is room for differentiated style in teaching and a place for balance in the classroom. Instead of measuring a teacher’s presentation method against today’s “best practices”, perhaps we should be measuring it against student indicators of best learning. And, to be clear, by best learning, I don’t mean standardized assessment. Like many things in life, the best learning can be measured in the love it produces, the spark it ignites, the relevant connections it builds. I would argue that great teaching happens not when a particular method of teaching is employed but rather when great learning is achieved.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Five Tips for Tech-Savvy Parenting


This week, we will host a discussion for parents at our school about online life for children. We generated this Top 5 Tips list for our parents to set up a working home-school partnership for not just safe but also positive, purposeful use of media for learning. 
1) Set Up the Neighborhood Boundaries: Think of online exploration as analogous to our city. Here in New York, there is no magic age where you would release your child to explore it without boundaries, and if they wait until adulthood to venture out without you, the peril is greater. Questions to ask:

  • What are the safe times for “travel”?
  • Where are the safe places?
  • Where are they allowed to go with you?
  • Where are they allowed to go without you?


2) Set Identity & Safety Rules:
  • Never share full name, address, school name.
  • Never share pictures with a stranger.
  • Decide as a family what email to use for account & ensure parents have access to that email and the password to online accounts.

3) Rely on Policies: You don’t have to go it alone in setting up boundaries. Most online communities for social media or gaming have age regulations in place. Schools also have boundaries for what is and what is not acceptable use. When up against the stubborn will of “but all my friends are allowed,” pass the buck and go with these guiding questions:
  • Well, what does the school/site note about usage? (Give them the responsibility of looking it up.)
  • Why do you think the site has these boundaries set up?
  • (If they are too young) So what do you propose for getting around this policy?
  • Are you comfortable lying and breaking the regulations? Does this match how you behave in face-to-face environments?

4) Just Say No... & Find Opportunities to Say Yes: When guidance to reason doesn’t work, taking a firm, clear stance on what is off limits is strongly advisable. No matter what they say, you are not the only parent who has this rule! On the other hand, as a parent, you can provide a bridge to safe, productive, creative and purposeful use. For example, the site Wattpad, while limited to 13 and older for individual use, could be a great way to introduce collaboration if your child likes writing. A family account could provide a way for your child to share their passion for writing with others and you. Many parents are not even aware when children begin young careers as bloggers or authors, but this could be a great window and way to say yes.  

5) Model Digital Citizenship: 
Whether we like it or not, the digital landscape has become a permanent

part of our world. Just as we cannot teach our children how to navigate the city safely from the comfort of our home, we cannot teach them how to explore and interact online without having a presence there. Not on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram? While there is no need to be master of the digital universe with profiles on each media, being in a digital community and getting oriented before your child arrives is the best way to prep proper guidance for his or her entry at the right time.  

Resources for Parents
**All of these have Facebook, Pinterest boards, and other social media pages to follow for resources as they are released.
Schoology or Edmodo (both social learning platforms)
Finding Green NYC: student social media activism http://on.fb.me/10ZINnQ

Further Reading

Monday, March 18, 2013

Top Five Technology Tools: Teaching and Leading in a "Facebook Meets Face-to-Face" Environment


This article includes my thoughts on the top five tools we used to start creating Blended Learning experiences. There are many tools, but these were the ones available to us, and as all were free, provided little financial impact in implementation.

ASCD Express 8.12 - Top Five Technology Tools: Teaching and Leading in a "Facebook Meets Face-to-Face" Environment

Here is the link to our presentation from #ASCD13 on Blended Learning. It's embedded with several links to tools and videos.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Writer's Block


I am empathizing with my students as I write this because I am stuck. I often say to them, “Oh I love to see you frustrated!” and to them, this seems very cruel, but getting stuck forces us to push through obstacles and grow. Hence, I like to see them get stuck because seeing them get unstuck is the most rewarding gift in teaching. 

But I digress. I was talking about how I am currently stuck and currently empathetic to my students. Usually, when this happens to my students or to my children, I suggest they just start writing, so that is what I am doing. My hope is that somewhere along the way, purpose will emerge and I will sound brilliant, inspirational, or at the lowest standard, competent and organized. The risk in this practice is (of course) that no sense will emerge and that the process will do nothing but consume time which very much needs to be spent getting the job done. What I am most fearing in this moment is this exact outcome. I have three more tasks on my to-do list today, and these are the central to-do’s not the tangential ones. Hence, this is a huge risk. 

The second approach I take when my well-intentioned, hard-working students return with a page or two full of scattered pieces of thought is to ask, “Well, what do you want to say about this topic? What do you really think about it?” If I could accurately describe the looks on their faces when I ask this question, I may elicit the just the right level of sympathy from you, my dear reader, as I am currently feeling for them as I (which you have likely surmised by now) do not know exactly what I want to say; or perhaps, I want to say too much, which is more or less the same thing. But back to their despondent faces. How else is one to feel after carefully cupping and carrying baby seeds of genius to a well-seasoned gardener in hopes of carrying away a stunning plant in full bloom...only to be turned away with some vague sense that what one has in her hands is not truly a plant because it is only the parts to a whole which mandates more skill and material to grow than what one believes she possesses?

But again, I digress. I believe we were speaking of empathy when one is blocked. On that point, I believe it’s important to feel empathetic of the student experience from time to time. It’s cliche to state, but we really do forget what it’s like. How do we re-experience, if not re-live, the fear of not fitting in and the overwhelming sense that this not-fitting-in supersedes any learning objective on any given day for any given purpose? How to we re-activate prior knowledge to recall that the Essential Question of every day is who are my friends? How do we re-enter a class for which we have prepared to the greatest extent but still feel insecure about our knowledge? How do we re-imagine what the heat in our cheeks feels like when our name is called and we don’t know the answer? How do we re-dream the dream we had when we accidentally fell asleep while up too late trying to get unstuck for the paper that is due absolutely no later than tomorrow? How do we re-cry the tears of relief (because it is really relief, not truly joy) or shame (because it is really shame, not truly sorrow) when we open the decision letter and know that someone who met us on paper, in an hour of one particular day, or in a few check marks from a portfolio around a table, has decided whether they want to really know us? 

I have come to the realization it is ever harder to remember but ever more important. Age is not our friend in this endeavor. We have to approach the task with intention (at least I will earn high marks for that today if not for efficiency). To remember, we must intentionally place ourselves in chairs, in classrooms and experience what it is like to see the nuances of learning through the eyes of a child: the good, the bad, and the boring. We must experience where to find the elusive Dropbox in Schoology, how to sit still and focus on our work when we just saw the funniest thing ever and the stifled giggles are infectious, and how to free one’s thoughts when they are confined by the Berlin Wall and the timer is on in English class. Hence, we must force ourselves to get stuck sometimes.

But then comes the joy of getting unstuck. It is akin to breaking down The Wall (though I only read about it and watched it on the news) or reaching the greatest summit (though I’ve only been to 11, 138 ft. on my two feet)...but I think the point is that by allowing ourselves to bump up against the great obstacles of school from time to time, we can remember the sense of achievement which comes from surmounting them, the very great sense of achievement in the summit of the smallest moment of a seemingly inconsequential victory.

Beyond that, we can recapture the immense joy of learning and revive our sense of responsibility in providing this joy so that it transcends the frustrations, disappointments, and failures inherent to any of life’s worthwhile journeys. At my school, we frequently talk about the gifts we give each other on a daily basis in the most mundane of exchanges and the weight they carry in painting the landscape of the day, week, and year we share together. Sometimes we give the gift of a great obstacle in exchange for the gift of growth. As often, we give the gift of a integrated, engaging learning experience in exchange for the gift of appreciation and joy of learning. Other times, we give the gift of empathy in the face of failure in exchange for the gift of rapport. The sense that we are on this journey together is the daily gift we give each other. While most of the time, we are out ahead with signs reading This Way To Success, sometimes we circle back and are side-by-side. Today I was stuck, and I thought of my students. They emerged ahead...and I followed them.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Simple Use of Something New to Teach a Classic Skill

This week, my English class students embarked on a study of rhetoric as it has been used in some of America's greatest speeches. We began by analyzing the connections between President Obama's 2013 Inaugural Address given yesterday and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. One of the tools we used was Wordle.net, which enable us to throw the text of both speeches into the Create field to produce a word cloud. The students enjoyed playing around with the word count limits and fonts to produce the arrangement which most clearly conveyed the overriding themes. I thought I would share this simple activity as it allowed us to watch themes emerge from prominent diction. From here we will look for connections to other American speeches and to our literary studies (mainly our current reading of Fahrenheit 451 and recently completed Inherit the Wind). Here are the word clouds generated today; they were excellent conversation starters!

President Obama's 2013 Inaugural Address 

Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" Speech



Wednesday, January 9, 2013

An Eclectic Approach to Staying Smart


I write this after another failed attempt to wake up early and head to the gym...which followed another failed attempt to wake up early and share some thoughts via a post. Basically, my New Year's Resolution has a very weak pulse at the moment. But as I pondered over why I was really not feeling anxiety over the situation, a connection occured to me which caused me to feel pretty good about being an adult in charge of both my fitness and my learning. As adults, we have the freedom to mix and match our choices, picking things up and putting things down based on their immediate effect on how we feel in response to the activities and where we are on our life paths.


My learning and my fitness approach are completely parallel. Where I exhibit a high level of fidelity and dedication in most areas of my life, I am more or less a player when it comes to picking an exercise routine and sticking to it. For a while, it was triathlon training. I loved it...until the novelty wore off and I realized I did not really love being cold or getting my hair wet in the pool. Oh well, on to the next! Then it was running. I loved it! I ran a few races, bought running tights, a running watch, and thoroughly engaged in my love affair with running...until I developed achy knees and had a hard time walking downstairs. Then it was riding my bike to work. I was head over heels with that...until the cold set in. Now it is Yoga. Again, I'm in love, and so are my knees.

I have many fitness loves, and I suppose instead of fixating on my inability to do one thing and stick to it, I should have some appreciation for the fact that I'm consistently active. I do a little this, a little that, maybe run, maybe bike, maybe climb a mountain. I don't think I'll ever marry one exercise.

I realized today that my learning pattern is the same. A few years ago, I started tweeting and I could not get enough. I was checking Twitter feeds all day and barraging people with resources. Blogging, pinning, Edcamps, 140 Conferences, chats, Facebook groups...if it existed, I had to hunt it down. More recently, I have been reading...offline! I've put down my phone for some classic books I have been wanting to reread and was sucked into that whirlwind again, loving every moment. Now it's onto a professional read.

Rather than be frustrated with my lack of consistency in my learning patterns where others have been able to systematize them, I'm going to choose to embrace and recognize the beauty of the eclectic opportunities we have as adults to shape them. I am really hoping to find a way to illustrate the importance of such choice and allow for it in students. Long live the learner who plays the field and never settles down! May her affairs by plentiful and fulfilling.