“If we challenge our own thinking, the seeds of growth take root.” Garrett (Just now!)
Bumper stickers aren’t known to alter our thinking, but…When I was running past traffic recently, I eyed a bumper sticker that did change the way I think. At the time, my mind was replaying my negative soundtrack for the day:
“I can’t…" "I should…" "I stink at…" "I never…" "I won’t…"
Then I saw it. It was on the back of a gold, dented SUV. A worn bumper sticker with a quote in all caps:
“DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU THINK.”
Hmm...the seed was planted and took root that day. I would challenge my own negative soundtrack for at least the rest of my run and perhaps when trying new things.
How often do you stop and notice how quickly our 21st Century world is changing education? Changing our thinking, We Twitter, We Facetime. We upload. We airdrop. We code. We create. We Google Classroom. We seesaw. We hyperdoc! Our conversations outside of school reflects the change too: We Facebook Live. We Tweet. We Snapchat. We iMessage. Let’s face it: the world is different outside of our classrooms, and the need for our professional practice to reflect our students’ 21st Century world is more important now more than ever. Easy to say, hard to do!
The “Don’t believe everything you think” attitude reveals the need in education to constantly keep an open mind. An open mind is what will bring the 21st century elements of the “real world” into your classroom. While handling technology is an unfamiliar landscape to many, not believing in your own mindset and abilities to integrate technology will restrict you from growing as an educator.
Before I noticed that bumper sticker, I encountered a situation where I desperately wanted to give up. During my first biking lesson years ago, my father watched from a distance as I turned my bike around the curve of a cul-de-sac. With my bike wobbling under my knuckle-white grip, my Shoulders glued to my ears, and eyes wide with fright, I veered dangerously towards a pothole.
“Stephanie! The pothole! Watch out for the pothole!” Warned my father. TOO LATE! Seemingly in slow motion, I married the unforgiving asphalt with a face plant. Wincing in pain and unable to stop the eruption of embarrassment and anger welling inside, I froze. The tears streaming down my face, I gritted my teeth, hid my red face and muttered in a mixture of tear-filled gulps and gasps, “I hate bikes!!! I can’t ride this STUPID BIKE!”
My own thinking became my negative soundtrack that day. I refused to get back on the bike to try again. The yellow bike with the banana seat and fringed handle bars waited for my thinking to change. (And it did. Slowly.) What if I believed my own childhood thinking? I would have missed out on a lifetime love affair with bikes with banana seats, fringed handle-bars and exhilarating 35 miles per hour downhill rides. I had to get over my own thinking before I attempted to learn how to ride a bike again. I needed encouragement, support and models to ride over the speedbumps.
Trying new technology while you are teaching can sometimes feel a lot like riding a bike for the first time (and can sound like an overused cliche.) At first, you feel like you are on that wobbly bike in your classroom BUT WITH ONE BIG EXCEPTION….. You are the lead biker with a room full of future Tour de Francers ( Yes, I know that word does not exist.) all watching you heading for the pothole for your daily face plant!
It is no wonder why so many teachers feel uneasy when they integrate technology in their classroom. Inevitably, something will go wrong (I love Murphy of Murphy’s Law. He was such an optimist.) Yet, if we walk away every time something does not go as planned and play the Murphy’s Law technology integration soundtrack like:
“I am not great with technology.”
“Everytime I use [insert new technology here], it doesn’t work.”
“My students can’t handle this.”
“I don’t have time to...”
Our students are tethered to our mindset and... our growth and our students’ learning will be limited to our own thinking limitations.
I’ve had a lifetime of face plants in the classroom. Crazy as it may sound, I am grateful for every last one of them; albeit, not at the exact face plant moment! Each face plant moment taught me a valuable lesson and challenged my thinking. Here are my favorite FACE PLANT lessons for the new year to help you kick technology integration fear to the curb!
#1: Learn by playing with new technology.
Experiment with a new technology. Tap every icon, approach the app with a beginner’s eye. Notice the universal icons. Do you see patterns? Practice playing around. Test it out with one student’s iPad. What works? What doesn’t? Do you want to try it for the first time with your students but you are afraid of a pothole? Ask a colleague to take on the role of student so you can test it. Schedule me just in case Murphy comes to visit your classroom too.
#2: Be vulnerable! And if that doesn’t work; fake it to you make it!
Let’s face it, we don’t know everything. But For some of us, admitting we don’t know something and need help would take a blindfold, a room full of interrogators, water and a board. But consider this, not knowing something means you have an opportunity to learn and to reach out to a colleague. Heck...you may even learn your colleague needs your help with cooking (gulp!).
#3: The Bigger the net, the wider the catch.
Envision the halls and elevators as PD treasure hunts. Your personal learning megabucks! Every single person walking the halls of our school knows something you don’t know. They are literally walking PD treasures. I am learning more now in this job than I was in my classroom. I walk into classrooms around the building and realize I am becoming a better teacher. WHY? I learn from others. The bigger the net, the wider the catch. So cast your PD net beyond your own team.
#4 Trying is better than perfect!
Trying new technology for the first time requires time and a mindset that kicks old thinking to the curb. Learning. Testing it out. Learning. Testing it out. Reflecting. Revising. Repeat. Is what it takes to become comfortable with integration. And that doesn’t guarantee Murphy won’t be waiting in your room ready to scream, “THINGS GET WORSE UNDER PRESSURE!” Get a new pair of eyeballs on your situation and roll with it because ultimately you care if it goes perfectly more than anyone else. So, give yourself a break. Take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back. You tried and isn’t that what we tell our students to do?
Happy New Year, and happy new you! When your iPad updates, so will you. Challenge your own thinking this year!