Monday, January 9, 2017

Now What? Thoughts on 2016 & beyond.

I was very fortunate in 2016. Personally, my husband and I moved into a new, larger apartment; we adopted an amazing cat named Shep, and I was able to attend more conferences and help more teachers learn about educational technology. The year was not without its first world problems, but overall I can look back on 2016 and smile.

There is one thing however that makes me uncomfortable. For the first time in my life, I don’t have a long-term goal. In education, you can be hired for positions based in part on credentials. I currently have a single subject credential in addition to a Masters in Educational Technology, but as a Staff Development Specialist in my district, I’ve tapped out positions.

If I wanted to aspire to do more within education, I’d need to earn an administrative credential. This credential is a strange idea to me. I am happiest when I’m working with teachers and helping them think about technology in regards to their classroom content, context, and pedagogy. As someone based out of a district office, it’s already difficult at times to work with teachers because, as anyone in education knows, there are any number of directions teachers are being pulled in on any given day. Moving into an administrative position makes me worry I’ll be doing more management of tasks and pulled even further away from helping teachers. There are amazing administrators that are inspiring to teachers, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not sure this is the path I’d like to take.

I’ve also thought about going back to school for an educational technology doctorate, but when I think of the cost-benefit analysis for the time and expense of the degree, I don’t see this being valuable to my family. I’ve even toyed with the idea of studying computer science because I’ve always found this an interesting subject, but the time that goes into another degree is time away from family.

I don’t want it to seem like I’m using my family as an excuse to stall the advancement of my career. As a wife, my family is a big part of my litmus test for any decision I make. I know my husband is supportive and would believe in any career decision I would make, but thus far, I haven’t found something that gets me so excited that the costs are worth it.

I’ve always had a plan. I was a teacher and I earned my masters in educational technology because it helped me advance my practice, moved me up the pay scale, and opened the door for my current position. As of right now, I have nothing I’m actively working towards. This is unknown territory to me. In some ways, this unknown is good because I’m getting to understand a different side of myself.

However, I’m also a bit worried because, on a day to day basis, I’m not happy with my day job. I’d be more comfortable with my lack of long-term goal if I felt more connected to my job. There are many happy times, and no one has outright made me feel like my position is at risk, but lately I’ve been feeling uninspired and disconnected from the classroom and teachers. A side effect of working in a consortium leading district is I have learned a lot about event planning and marketing. These are useful skills that I know I can use in the future, but every time I work on an event I always wonder what I could be doing to help teachers directly instead. If the choice is working with teachers or checking in dignitaries at an event, I’d rather be with teachers, but in practice that isn’t always what happens. My happiest moments this year have been conversations with teachers brainstorming and implementing ideas for technology in the classroom. Helping teachers get started or go deeper is where I feel the heart of my position should be, and it’s where I feel I can put my best foot forward.

When I get to work with teachers or collaborate with other Staff Developers I’m thrilled, but I don’t get to do that as often as I’d like. I feel part event planner and part useless. I don’t like the event planning because the most time consuming of events are usually are for administrators and TOSAs outside the district, not our teachers. I will put everything into planning a teacher event and have in the past, but sometimes I find it hard to think of spotlighting the district rather than providing for our own. There are other days where I feel like I don’t know why I go to work. I hate to admit this, but sometimes I just feel useless. There are things I’m working on, such as adapting curriculum or organizing future professional development, but they always seem to be happening in the future. Day to day, I’m at the district office more than I am on-site with teachers.

I hate this imbalance. This imbalance is the root of my so much of my unease. I don’t feel like I am able to do my best work for my job, and I don’t have a plan to change my situation to find a place where I feel like I can do my best and continue to grow. I’m hoping next semester the imbalance will change as I lead six of our school sites in bringing Girls Who Code to our district. I also don’t want it to seem like I sit at my desk at the district office and wait for opportunities to come to me. We’ve revamped our department website, posted our after school PD calendar for the entire year in August, created a professional development menu for our principals and department chairs as a reference for PD options, co-presented with content areas staff developers, presented at content area staff developer PD, and provided paid PD opportunities after school and on weekends.

This frustration leads to times of unhappiness and, unfortunately, in some ways has bled into other areas of my life. I haven’t had the energy to participate in Twitter chats like I used to or be a contributor to my favorite Voxer groups. I honestly haven’t felt like I had anything of value to say since I wasn't accomplishing much in my district. I find myself working hours that I don't feel are helpful to classroom teachers and it makes me wonder if my personal philosophy about coaching in educational technology is a good fit with where I currently am. Even some of my closest friends have asked if I was ok because my facial expressions showed more than I thought about my state of mind.

I don’t regret taking this job. I work with some wonderful people and I’ve been exposed to great ideas and concepts. I came into this position wanting to learn more about how to be a coach and about departments in educational technology, and I feel I am achieving that purpose. Every day I spend in this job I feel like I’m being exposed more ideas and concepts to continue to learn about, both in my position and on my own.

As far as staff development goes, when I read feedback from the professional development I facilitate, the hard work I put in shows. However, I’m used to having a next step, a plan I’m working on for the future. When I was in a fixed mindset English department for example, I began putting together my application packet to transfer to another school. I consider my plans an open door to opportunity that in the event I need a change or want a change I have it ready to act on or at least to look forward to, but right now I don’t. The unease of not having a plan for future education or career past the master's degree and becoming a staff developer has been brewing in the back of my mind since I finished my master’s in 2014. Now unfortunately, those feelings of unease are compounded by my unhappiness in my job.

It’s not much of a conclusion for a blog, but hopefully the following will do considering so much is still unknown and I’m still processing idea and options. I know as long as I continue to question my status quo and think about this, I’ll make positive progress. In the interim however, I’ll learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. In addition, I need to remember to not be complacent and let things that bother me continue to be distanced from things I enjoy. I can’t let the burnout from work I dislike keep me from things and people that help me grow. Instead, I need to turn to those outlets more now than ever to help remind me that even if I’m unhappy at work, I still am helpful to those in my district and my PLC.

So as far as 2017 goes, there are things I’m passionate about and some career goals I’d like to achieve such as keynoting a tech event and presenting internationally (once I get my passport in order, of course). In regards to a far reaching career or education goal, I’m not sure I’ll have one this calendar year, but that remains to be seen. In the short term however, I’m going to focus on what I know and love, helping teachers. I hope by doing this work I will continue to connect with others that share my passion and who can help me grow individually and as a contributor to the educational technology community.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Lovers, Haters, and I Don't Care(ers)

Yesterday educational technology communities on the internet exploded with mixed emotions as Google for Education announced a plethora of new features for educators just in time, or a week late depending on your district, for back to school.

When I read the blog post in the office I literally did a happy dance and ran into my coworkers’ office to share my excitement. Then, I rushed to social media to share with others and see what the buzz was from my PLN. Many shared my excitement, the lovers, and many were unaware or unimpressed since they aren’t GAFE users, the I don’t care(ers). Then, of course, there were the haters, in this case, a vocal group of opponents against one specific new addition to Google Classroom.

Classroom now has an annotation feature that makes it easier for students and teachers to interact with files (Google, Microsoft, images, and pdfs) when using the Classroom mobile app. I’ll be honest with you, when I first heard about this feature, I wasn’t happy. We’ve done so much to move people away from worksheets and towards creativity, this seemed like a step backward. This seemed like we were giving teachers a tool that enabled bad habits. Then the more I thought about it, I realized my personal feelings about this aren’t relevant to a classroom teacher. This feature, whether I like it or not, is here, so as a technology coach, what am I going to do when my teachers ask about it?

At first, I thought about discouraging use of annotations but then I thought about the teachers I work with. As hard as we’ve tried my coworkers and I have yet to find a simple equation editor that’s as fast and convenient as paper and pencil. So maybe this is the answer to that problem. Who know’s what this tool will become, because I doubt Google knew about HyperDoc or Choose Your Own Adventure Forms when they created those tools. Plus, how often does any edtech tool do something we all cringe about and then months later it becomes something amazing. I guess pdfs, just make us quick to judge.

So as we go back to school I feel it’s important for anyone with a stake in this community to remember the following things:

  1. It’s not about the tool, it’s about what we do with it.
  2. What may be a substitution to us, may be someone’s gateway into educational technology.
  3. Every decision we make in our classrooms is dependent on pedagogy, content, and context, things that vary for every teacher so who are we judge individual decisions?

So what will I say when a teacher asks me about annotations via the Classroom mobile app? The same thing I always say when a teacher asks me about a tech tool. “What’s your instructional objective?” Tools aren’t objectives, but if Classroom annotations supports their objective then who am I to say no to the use of an appropriate tool? It’s our job as power users to help teachers embrace new ideas or tools and ultimately push them outside of their comfort zone and towards innovate in their classrooms.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

My #ISTE2016 Nugget

I’ve never been to ISTE before. This was my first trip to ‘the room where it happens’ and it didn’t disappoint. I arrived on Saturday morning and within five minutes of stepping into the conference center, I heard people geeking out about tech tools, hashtags, and backpacks. I was right where I needed to be.

Prior to the trip friends were asking why I’d make the trek all the way to Denver and the answer was simple, the people. My goal for ISTE this year was catching up and meeting people. Every time I go to a conference I learn just as much, if not more, from the people in attendance. This conference was no different.

I was fortunate to connect with so many people from the internet that I could not contain my happiness. Not only did I get to reunite with my Google Innovator #MTV16 family, but I got to meet the many of the amazing #COL16 cohort. Then there was the #tosachat, #connectedtl, and #personalizedPD friends. Then it was great to connect with leaders from EdTechTeam, BreakoutEDU, and CUE.

Throughout every conversation, I noticed one theme. We all are struggling; some of us need help with getting leadership on board, gamification, robots, pushing beyond the S of SAMR, or getting our friends connected to a PLN. But what I love about the educational technology community is we don’t give up and we share. No one had the answer, but we all were willing to share where we are in the process.

So, when asked what’s my one nugget from ISTE it isn’t a tool, app, device, or program. It doesn't let perfect get in the way of progress.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

I didn't forget, honest.

Over the past two months, I've been fortunate to attend two educational technology events. The first was the Antelope Valley EdTech Summit. This event opened with a keynote by Alice Keeler.

While I don't aways agree with her tweets, I definitely agreed with this quote. During her Alice brought Christine Pinto to the stage to present the amazing work she is doing with technology and her TK students.

Christine was incredibly energetic and showed everyone in the audience that if her TK students can use technology yours can too! The final speaker of the day was Naomi Harm.

Her keynote was filled with little tips and tricks but I thought this quote was especially important for educators. 

Today, I've had the opportunity to participate in the Think. Create. Share. conference at Cal State Fullerton. Dr. Jonathan Plucker provided the opening and closing keynotes for the event.

During his keynote, Dr. Pluker debunked some myths about creativity and this was one of my favorites.