This Spartan Did

As I come to the end of Year 2, I am delighted!

I am delighted with myself, with my colleagues, with what I’ve learned, how I’ve changed and what I have accomplished. In reflecting on the summer, I see three main themes. I have illustrated each storyline to demonstrate my experiences rather than tell of my experiences.

  • The journey from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.

The Journey Comic Strip

  • The journey from practice as something for others to something for myself.

  • A diary of much of my work and notable revelations in the past 4 weeks.

spartans will hats v3
A stanza from a poem called A Morning Offering by Irish poet John O’Donohue further expression my experience of MAET Year 2.

May my mind come alive today

To the invisible geography

That invites me to new frontiers,

To break the dead shell of yesterdays,

To risk being disturbed and changed.

Practice, Feedback & Reflection Mini Teachmeet Collaboration

Today in MAET we did a super fast teachmeet-like exercise where groups of us investigated varying topics that we have covered this summer. My colleague Alicia and I chose to focus on practice, which quickly grew to encompass feedback and reflection.  Here is our thinking after an hour of collaboration. As you can see, the design process is messy and a bit scattered, but Alicia rightly thought it was important to model the skill of getting ideas shared so they become available for feedback and collaboration.

BY: Joy Zaher & Alicia Sansing

Unifying Definitions:

Practice:  the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method reproduced over time as opposed to theories relating to it.

Feedback:  information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement.

Reflection: 1)  serious thought or consideration.  2) a thing that is a consequence of or arises from something else.

Why reinvent the wheel? We borrowed and remixed ideas from Dan Meyer (math guy) who has an awesome blog post about changing teaching by modelling it after Angry Birds. Not only does this method work with students but it will also work with educators as we think about our own practice and the ways that we need to make it more obtainable to our learners, peers and leaders. Following are ideas that we can use as professionals and educators.

  1. Make it easy to start the task.111003_1lo  1

-start with something they already know how to do, and get them doing it

Don’t over plan- frontload, don’t plan the outcome

  1. Show, don’t tell.

111003_2lo  2

  • Wider audience, outside of the classroom, show your work with a blog, website and/or online portfolio w/reflective blog
  1. Give useful and immediate feedback.

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  1. Make it easy to recover from failure.

111003_4lo   4

  • Model with video, feedback
  • Having a mentor
  • Ask students for feedback rather than constantly providing them with feedback
  1. Complicate the task gradually.

why reinvent the wheel- borrow, remix, reuse (i.e. use yesterday’s exit ticket as a warm up for today)


Resources

Helpful information about methods of practice

One of the rare times I learn when others did the work

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One of the “interview committees”.

All three cohorts convened today for 3 mock job interviews. Next to the GREAT15 Conference, this was the most helpful learning experience of 1.75 summers in MAET. Among the loads of observations, I found four overarching themes from watching 3 of my peers bravely model a job interview in front of 50 people. I admire their courage.

  1. Little things matters. Before the interviews began, I found it helpful to see that he reworded his assigned question to be more “user friendly”. Instead of asking the candidate about his framework for teaching, he asked “How are you going to decide what and how to teach?” I found this helpful because I had made up in my mind that interview committees are less like people and more like document scanners looking for keywords or phrases. Other things that matter: smile. Shake hands with everyone. Laugh. Be human. How I sit, how I talk, how I command the room (or not). Avoid self-depricating comments–there is no need to invite people to dislike me or my work. They have no reason to think I am not a perfect fit for their institution when I walk in the room, and I should believe that.
  2. Dr. Roseth summed it up beautifully: show don’t tell. I took a fiction writing class once from an author that has since won the National Magazine Award. His version of the same advice for a different context was “don’t tell your readers something you can show them”. We all connect to stories, and we all seem to glaze over when someone goes on and on about theoretical concepts. Stories that illustrate our answers to questions provide evidence that I have actually formed an understanding of the theory or concept and applied it in my day to day job. Showing offers points of connection between the interviewer and the candidate, and these connections are ultimately what is going to get me the job or not, assuming I meet the basic qualifications for the position. In fact, I walked away from today’s interviews convinced that discovering if those connections exist or can be made between the job seeker and the institution are really what the interview is really about.

    2015-07-17 09.07.48

    The audience. No pressure at all!

  3. My online presence matters, whether I care about it or not. Especially since I am in Educational Technology. So I’d better start caring about it. The message today was loud and clear to me: be aware of what is out there about me online. I was reminded of my rule for dressing for school: when in doubt, don’t. The same applies to posts and pictures online.

What Mike said about e-portfolios was profound. What I have not liked about my website so far is that it was created for MAET, which is exactly what he was talking about. One of my goals for this summer is to transform it from being primarily about MAET to being primarily about me. I also left today with permission to really be myself online and connect all the pieces of myself together in one location. Leigh said something the very first week like, “at the end of the day, you’re you”. Authenticity matters, otherwise I’m just another person out there with similar training to everybody else. As Stephen pointed out yesterday, it is possible and quite easy to just go through the motions of teaching, not really pursuing excellence. I don’t want that to be me.

  1. Do your homework on the institution. Chris’s insight on this was powerful. As did other people, he mentioned being specific about where you met people and what connections you have with them. In my experience, these connections are how I end up with interviews and opportunities. Once I get the interview, the first three takeaways really start to matter.

Reflections on a truly #GREAT15 day

Today, for the first time in my life, I presented something I created in a conference setting. It was at GREAT15, a conference the 2nd year cohort of MAET Overseas puts on each summer. The process was amazingly transformative. I cannot believe how much I have changed through this experience. The revelations that I am relishing here at the end of this amazing day are

  • Actually practicing the presentation over and over again eliminated that anxious pit-of-my-stomach panic feeling I have always had the day of presentations in the past. I had none of that feeling today.
  • Writing out the script verbatim of what I was to say and on which slide was miraculous. It forced me to deal with the nitty gritty details of my presentation–those details that are so easy to overlook. I ended up deviating from it a little bit, but I was so familiar with it that I was confident in what to say and where to interject.
  • I needed help. Okay, this in and of itself is not a revelation. I think the more amazing part to me was that I asked for help, I accepted it, and, for the most part, did so without resistance. In other words, I was willing to have help.
  • Accepting feedback was super uncomfortable at first. I felt exposed and vulnerable and I didn’t like it one bit. What I realized as I went along, though, is that feeling exposed and vulnerable is 1) part of the process; 2) eases with repeated practice; 3) a fear that my value as a person is on the line;  4) is a big part of what makes the people I admire really good at what they do.
  • I am not inherently incapable of presenting well. Or researching well. Or doing almost anything else well. But I grew to accept that I can be. It’s like in Outliers when Malcolm Gladwell points out all the work that people we consider to be smarter or inherently more talented than the rest of us have mostly just put in their 10000 hours to become expert at something. What I am saying here is that I, too, can learn to do this kind of stuff well, I just have to work through the struggles involved.
  • Struggle is part of the process, not an indicator that I am doing it incorrectly or that I am incapable.
  • Here’s the big one: self-doubt is one of my greatest enemies. I have known this for a long2015-07-16 15.59.00time because I’ve seen it eat away at other parts of my life. However, seeing it take hold of me in this process gave me tangible benchmarks to see how it was interfering with my growth and progress. Every time I doubted myself, I started over. This meant that as deadlines approached I was still trying to come up with a better plan because I had seen a flaw in my current idea and taken that as an indicator that I needed a new idea. I really got it that this cycle of self-doubt has no exit except stick-with-it-ness through the discomfort of believing my idea stunk.
  • MY buy-in to my work is way more important that anyone else’s. I felt intimidated after I heard the welcoming speaker because he was dynamic and funny and didn’t read from a script. I almost changed my presentation because I feared mine would be too stale and boring after that. But I caught myself and changed nothing. Rather than change my stuff to align to what my brain told me people would like better, I decided to believe in my own work, as is, and be proud of what I had accomplished. I reminded myself that this is my first presentation, that we all start somewhere, and that I have done honest, good work.
  • All of us are people first. I sort of thought before this that “academics” were a breed of non-emotional humanoid nerd-type people. Today I realized that we are all people with families and kids and pets who get hungry and have emotions and who love their jobs for some of the same reasons I do.
  • I CAN! When I was making the website, people would ask me if I could do ___. I immediately said no. Then I’d figure out how to do it, do it, then jump up and down.  That about sums it up!

References
Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: The Story of Success.
 

Research to Practice Session @ GREAT15

I had the honor July 16 to present at the GREAT15 to a group of my peers and professionals in educational technology. Though it was part of the MAET program I am in, the research I did was valuable to me as a practitioner. The presentation was part of a larger project of building a lesson plan out of investigation of empirical research on our chosen topic and pedagogy.

I took the opportunity of being with 10 colleagues to gather their opinions and feedback on the possibilities of transferring a well-studied reading comprehension strategy called Reciprocal Teaching across disciplines to mathematics. I also asked participants to fill out a quick survey. Both of these materials are listed below.

<a href=”https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1dy8J7p_3re-qGzshV1tp8XxagELhCbrUvaihLBY40zs/edit?usp=sharing&#8221; target=”_blank”>Reciprocal Teaching in the Mathematics Classroom Presentation</a>

<a href=”http://goo.gl/forms/7dMuQMnX4l&#8221; target=”_blank”>Presentation Feedback</a>

Reflections and Epiphanies on the Design Process

It is an understatement to say that the process of revision and lesson study has influenced my thinking about the design of the learning experience I’m creating for learners. It is informing it. Participating in this process has forced to the surface the weak spots that exist in how I design lesson plans and learning experiences in my professional life. If I am honest, the design process for my students thus far in my career has taken on the following form most of the time:

  1. Decide the topic to be taught
  2. Come up with some way to teach it, often this involves lots of Google searches.
  3. Implement.
  4. Reflect

And so this is the process that I implemented when I began working on my learning experience. The problems quickly became apparent. Step 1 took me a while but I didn’t worry too much. I figure this is all part of the process, it will come together eventually. As it turns out, Step 2 is much easier to do once Step 1 has been done. Thus my troubles began. I kept going round and round with ideas in my head but never really committing to one because none of them ever seemed like the perfect idea.

Traditionally this is the part of my “process” where I get stuck, be it in writing lesson plans, planning parties or writing blog posts. When it is time to get specific, I get lost.

The day we coded for TPACK was pivotal for me. It was difficult for me to do and I had much resistance to the entire process. It was tedious and I felt trapped and uncomfortable and an overwhelming urge to jump out of my skin. As I persevered, I began to realize what the root of the trouble was: I do not like making decisions. And coding is one small decision after another after another after another. We had to decide if and “idea unit” needed to be categorized and if so, into which of 6 categories it belonged. Again and again and again.

This is when I caught on to myself and realized that making decisions was at the the heart of my troubles in the design process.  I was afraid of making a mistake, being judged, criticized or looking bad. I was also afraid of picking a bad topic that I could not do anything with, resulting in wasted time and effort.

Even as I write this, however, I see the fixed mindset (Dweck, 2006) out of which that perspective is born. I am looking for a “perfect” design, lesson, experience, whatever, outside of myself. Always on the hunt for that one “magic” idea, I think I will never create a lesson that is good enough until or unless I find the perfect idea. This mindset feeds an unwillingness to let go of ideas I do up with for fear that I will not find any that are better.

What I see now is that designing is not so much inspiration that strikes a person all of the sudden (as I had previously thought) complete with a brilliant idea, implementation strategies and logistics all arranged nicely. I never saw the part of anyone else’s design process, so I did not see the iterations, feedback and struggle that went into their designing.

I now have an entirely different view of the design process and consequently of myself. I understand it now to be work and a process. I now understand that ideas can come from inside me. I do not have to stumble upon the “perfect” idea; I can start with a marginally good idea and refine it until it is a really good idea through the process of iteration, feedback and revision. Feedback becomes a valuable tool that can help in the refinement process rather than a threatening competition to see who “found” the better idea on their search for perfection.

The transformation of my thinking from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset encompasses my view of myself as a technology integrator in the making, as well.

Previous to about four days ago, I have not thought of myself as a technology integrator, even since I began MAET. At the school in Boise where I teach, I am not in an official technology position, and even after completing the first year of MAET, I did not see myself as a “technology integrator”. My school is loaded with technological devices and people who know how to use them. Each class has a set of chromebooks, a document camera, loads of of calculators and software to run with them, and we have a brand new teacher who was trained on many interesting and engaging web tools.

I had decided that I could not possibly become a “Technology Integrator” because I am just not inherently put together that way. Upon deeper reflection, a Technology Integrator is a person that is skilled at effectively blending technology and best teaching practices. They understand how to maximize student learning utilizing whatever technology is available, be it paper and scissors, a website or creating a movie. This I can learn to do.

The iterations of my Theory to Practice project have taught me that I am not inherently any labelthat I can learn and work and struggle and revise and chisel myself into anything I want to be. The definition I was using is another demonstration of a fixed mindset (Dwek, 2006). I discovered through the iterative process first, that I can redefine what “Technology Integrator” is to me, and second that I can grow into whatever that definition turns out to be.

References

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.