Barkley Marathons: 22.3 Things It Can Teach Teachers (and Us)

I first stumbled upon the Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young Documentary when it showed up on my Netflix. It struck my curiosity so I saved it to my list to watch and there it sat for a couple of weeks. Now I’m typically not a documentary lover. I am more of Marvel comics spin off, terrible B horror movie (I know…its a problem) or a Sci-Fi movie kind of gal.

… one Sunday night I decided I’d give it a try.

NICE Mini Conference 2014

Saturday was it.

It was the big day.

It was a HUGE BIG GIGANTIC check off of my list and goals of things I wanted to do this year!

Saturday was the day I spoke of my very first conference, the Nice Mini Con 2014.

I drove to the conference cursing. The salt and snow and mess splashed on the window of my car.  The running out of windshield wiper fluid light blinked at me.  I hoped I wouldn’t have to stop to fill it up. It would be just my luck to present my first conference covered in windshield wiper fluid.

My stomach churned with nerves.

I ate my breakfast and drank my water.  I would  get my coffee right before I got to the conference.  Yes…it would also be just my luck that my coffee would drip drip drip, leaving me with an oh so attractive and professional  coffee stain somewhere unhideable.   I went through the script of my sessions in my head.  Before I knew it was there and coffee and windshield wiper fluid stain free!  I checked in and found my way to the room I was presenting at.

Technology Inequality: The Quest for Change

I sat in the auditorium at my second Edcamp*, Edcamp Chicago.   Excitement filled me.  Excitement  for the amazing stories I would hear,  the new educators I would meet and the new innovative, outside the box ideas I would learn filled me!  The moderators took the microphones, welcomed us and shared the foundation of Edcamps (the part that really makes them awesome)**

Educators began coming to the front, writing their session ideas on neon notecards,  stepping up to the microphone to share their idea and have it added to the grid. Ideas, strategies, techniques filled the session grids.  I began to decide which ones I wanted to go to.  I had the link to the grid, the room number of the first session I was going to and I was excitement and ready to start!!!

Up first….Flipped Classroom session.

I found my spot at a table in the Science lab classroom that would house this session. People came in and found their spots too. I found a plug…because duh! I forgot to charge up before coming to a tech conference.  The room filled up.  When the clock clicked to the start time of this session, someone spoke up and decided that we should all introduce ourselves.

“Huh… Not something we usually do at these things,” I thought to myself and shrugged “but ok?!”

People to the left of me took turns telling us their names and what they taught. I took my turn and my friend took hers too.  Next  it was time for the front of the room to introduce themselves. Three teachers sitting at a front table took turns introducing themselves.  Each of them introducing themselves as teachers in the dual language*** program at one of area elementary schools.

“How exciting,” I thought “Someone from my daughters school district!”

“They’re from my daughters district,” I whisper to my friend ” This is awesome. They are so behind in technology at my daughter’s school. I’m so happy they’re here!”

They finished their introductions with we have no technology in our classrooms.

A huge sighed of sadness and an aw of surprise that this serious lack of technology even exists filled the room.

Introductions finished and we were finally ready to start talking Flipped Classrooms.

I pulled my laptop (my district issued laptop) in front of me and opened it up. I looked up to see the teachers from my daughters district pull out a pen and paper.  My heart sank.

What Connected Educators Could Learn from Bloggers

October is connected educators month. Everyday I see a post, a tweet sharing a passionate moment about being a connected educator and stories showing the awesomeness of being a connected educator. Each post, tweet and story fills me up and makes me feel happiness for my peers and their new found connectedness.  Even with all these positive and inspired feelings I am still left with a nagging feeling that many educators are missing the most important piece of being a connected educator.  They are missing the other part of CONNECT in being a connected educators.  I think it is a lesson they could learn from bloggers (non-teacher bloggers).

Three years ago I created my first twitter account.  A month later I had my first blog. I blogged and tweeted about being a woman, a friend, being a wife and all the ups and downs of motherhood. I blogged anonymously worried that if I dare share or show that I was an educator this kind of sharing would be severely looked down upon.  Through it all, I learned the lingo, tuned my writing skills and I found passion and was awaken like I had never been before.  I wrote and shared and created and wrote some more. I shared and healed parts of me that had deeply hurt for a very long time.  I wrote more and shared more and woke a creative side of me I had forgotten existed.  I wrote and shared and I suddenly found my voice. Most of all I found a fulfillment and a connection to others I had never known before. These experiences were (and still are) life changing.

Six months ago I hit the publish key on my first post as Carrie Baughcum Special Education teacher. I came out from behind my anonymity and shared about my classroom, my lessons, my journey as an educator. I was terrified, but excited. Sharing and reflecting about my classroom experiences filled me like never before. I shared and wrote more and more.  I shared and wrote and shared and wrote some more.  It felt wonderful to share this part of me. I felt invigorated and fulfilled, but I was also left with a deep yearning.  I yearned to connect the same way with educators as I had with the amazing bloggers I had met on my journey.

So, after three years of blogging and six months also blogging as an educator I have come to realize this…educators do not blog or used social media like bloggers. I think there are many things that connected educators could learn from bloggers.

Here is what I think educators can learn from bloggers….

Bloggers– Come to blogs to read, to absorb, to learn about the author.  They soak up each others words.  More then that they reflect and really connect with the posts they read.  In return for a blogger sharing their words an other blogger will share back their own reflections, insight and feelings. It is important to them to really connect with the stories and also to make sure the author know what they thought.

Sample Blogger Comments:

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Educators– Visit blogs for information. They read the posts.  They gather and bookmark and gather and collect their information.  They come to read blogs and take in their words and stories but they leave as if they were never there.

Bloggers– Read social media streams looking for others to connect with. They are happy to reply to a tweet or Google+ post based on the information that caught their interest. Who wrote it is often unimportant.

Educators– Read and gather information.

Bloggers–  Reply to tweets to them.  They offer more information, ask questions to engage with each other and connect with each other through the words they share.

Sample Blogger Twitter Stream:

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Educators– May politely reply a thank you but often do not offer an inquiry or work to get to know the other person any further.

Bloggers– They share. They take what they have read, what they have learned, what they felt, how they were moved and even what they didn’t like.  They share their words and the words of others with others.  Bloggers know that by sharing others work, words and inspirations that their words will be meaningful to others person and have an impact.  It will connect them with other.

Educators– Read and gather.  They may re-share information to others, but often do not add any personal thoughts, opinions or insights.

I think that educators have made their presence known in social media…It is quite amazing!  They have written and shared and offered their words for others to read.  They have read and gathered and learned new things from people from all over the world.  They have discovered the power of words and social media to bring ideas to each other.  I think it is time for educators to take the next step.  It is time for them to stop just gathering and collecting.  It is time for educators to share, offer words, shout out each others awesomeness.  Our voices are powerful and crazy awesome. The the small gifts we give with our words connects us deeper and builds those relationships.  It is time we go from connecting to information and really connecting with each other.  We won’t be disappointed!

Brene Brown Quote

Road Closed

Piloting being a 1:1 iPad classroom* and being an almost completely paperless classroom left me filled me up and wanting more. It inspired me to be a risk taker, it inspired me to follow a brewing passion (technology…duh?!!) and it pushed me to go big, prove to everyone, to show everyone that if the students in my classroom can accomplish this, do this, be successful at this then anyone can…everyone should!!! Quite frankly, the end of last years’ school year was career and life changing for me.

When the new school year began this year I was filled up with idea, inspiration and a ton of tricks I was going to try in my classroom.  We were going to seriously rock it as a 1:1 iPad.  Only I forgot to do one thing…. I forgot to check to make sure that I would even be able to be a 1:1 iPad classroom. Call me naive, call me dumb, say duhhh Carrie, but I seriously believed that if we seriously rocked the 1:1 iPad pilot …I mean rocked it so hard the audiences would cheer and clap and break down the stage if we didn’t come back out for an encore rocked it there would be no way that our technology awesomeness could be denied. Well it was and not just in a just wait a bit it will happen or maybe next year style…it was a road block. Full on stop traffic.

I thought about crying in a vat of coffee and piles of chocolates or get so mad I’d bust, but really neither of those would solve my problem…coffee and chocolate are so very nice though. We were a classroom full of skilled iPad users/paperless classroom with some access to iPads and we would no longer be able to be paperless. What was I going to do…

I decided that I was going to ignore this stupid road block and take it upon myself to find away around it. It might take longer, it might mean I’ll have to ask for direction, it might mean we have to conquer some mountains but gosh darn it we were loading up the car and we were going to get there. We were going to get back to being a 1:1 iPad classroom.

First I reassessed any students who were not already being evaluated for assistive technology. Were there any other students (last year we identified two) that if we took the technology away from them it would significantly impact their organization, their access to information, their participation in class etc. We identified two more.

Second (and this was super hard for me) I had to have a talk with my students who would not qualify for assistive technology. I explained to them the situation and told them that we would still be using technology, we would work together to pick a preferred technology tool and they would become an expert at it. It would have to be a tool that was accessible by desktop. We would also go back to hand writing notes and worksheets.

Third I decided I needed to stay ahead of the game. I needed to continue to use all the new tools and techniques I was learning about. I needed technology stayed ever present and an active part of every period, every lesson, conversations…an ever present tool.

Fourth (and final) I was going to make sure I made and took opportunities to teach others. I was going to make sure I took opportunities to work with my peers, help them figure out technology, how to use something, how to create with something. I was going to work with our tech person to make opportunities for me to help her or for me to teach staff some of the tools I use with students.

…most of all I was not going to give up. I would keep sharing, keep talking, keep asking, keep moving forward with as much technology because road blocks can’t last forever and if they do I’ll just find a way around them!

RoadBlock

 

A Note about the post… I am fully aware of  how very lucky I am as an educator to work in the district I work in.  I am also extremely grateful for the tools  and technology that I have to teach with.  Technology is an amazingly fantastic tool that is powerful and has so very much to offer students.  When you know the technology is there and you know its potential its hard to not have it.  I also know money doesn’t grow on trees! 

*A classroom that each student has their own individual iPad to use, in many cases (in mine) the students are allowed to also bring them home to use