Reflecting on ISTE 2011- Unlocking your potential

My ISTE reflection was written over a 3 day period…

Tuesday’s entry:

I’m at ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education)  in Philadelphia and everywhere I turn there are passionate educators who are focused on making a difference. It is energizing to be in the company 0f so many people who share the same passion I do. While I’ve been here I have had the opportunity to reconnect with friends as well as finally meet in person those I have been following on Twitter. Between the meetings, twitter feeds, dinners and serendipitous run-in’s I’m completely overwhelmed with information. I believe reflection is critical in order to process new information, make sense of what it means for me, and figure out a way to implement this new found knowledge (otherwise what’s the point of learning it in the first place). Sometimes I need to reflect privately, while other times I need a sounding board. A trusted confidant (my husband, a family member, a friend, a co-worker) to challenge my perspective and push my understanding to a new level. Being a social butterfly, it’s hard to force myself to reflect privately while I’m surrounded by thousands of people who share similar interests, but I feel it’s necessary to at least start the process now before my thoughts become faint or even worse disappear.

Attending ISTE has always been bitter-sweet because I’m here to work (I have to be in certain places at certain times), which makes it impossible to sit in on all of the amazing sessions and keynotes I would love to attend. But thanks to the #ISTE2011 Twitter feed (and the collective belief that these ideas should be shared) I can review the content on my own time.  I just need to make sure I schedule time do do it.

My information overload started Sunday evening. I’m a big fan of John Medina (Sunday evening keynote) after stumbling upon his Brain Rules a few years ago. Unfortunately I didn’t get an early enough flight out and  I landed in Philly as he took the stage.  As soon as I could turn on my phone the tweets poured in. I felt as if I was there and enjoyed not only hearing his thoughts on education, but various interpretations of his thoughts through the people I follow.

With all of the information being shared here at ISTE it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with what to focus on. Depending who you ask you will get a different answer about what we need to do to improve education. Literacy skills, inquiry, 3D, global learning, assessment, mobile devices, student engagement, collaboration, Web 2.0, iPad, iPods, Google Docs, eBooks…..the list goes on and on. And there is an opportunity cost of spending my time learning 1 thing and wondering if I should be focused on something else.  There is no magic bullet. There is no 1 size fits all. It has always bothered me when people say “this is the model 21st century classroom” because learning environments need to be flexible (the tools I need to use will change from one day to the next depending on what we are learning) , and they are forgetting that learning happens everywhere, not just within the classroom walls.

Wednesday’s entry:

This morning I woke up early to go for a run through Philly. As I have posted before, I love to run. My hotel was next door to City Hall so I didn’t mind getting lost on my run knowing I had William Penn to guide me home. I ran to the Philadelphia Museum of Art just so I could run up the stairs (I refrained from pumping my arms in the air and yelling “Adrian!”) and then continued towards the river. When I turned around to head back to the hotel I had to be careful to keep my eye on William Penn while at the same time watching my step so I don’t trip and fall (which has happened too many times to count in my running tenure). What a perfect analogy for what we are trying to do in education. We have a vision (this year’s theme for ISTE was “Unlocking potential”) for education. I believe in this vision. I believe in the power of unlocking a child’s passion. So how do we do that? What does this new learning environment look like? We need to be sure we watch our steps along the way so we don’t trip and fall. But if we spend too much time watching our step, we forget to look up and run the risk taking a wrong turn. We must not forget that it’s about learning, and it’s about the children. Once we understand that, the proper tools will fall into place and will be used appropriately.

Almost 4 years ago I became a mother. I take this job seriously and I love my children with all of my heart. I realized in order to be the best mom I could be, I needed to spend more time improving myself. I needed to be selfish. I need to take time every day to grow, so that I’m a better version of myself than I was the day before. I owe that to my children. I will not wait for someone to provide professional growth opportunities for me. Yes those conferences, meetings, calls etc. are important, but for me I will not solely rely on those opportunities to learn. Every day I wake up wondering how I can contribute to learning environments. Every day I follow people and publications that share that same passion. Every day I learn something new from these people that I didn’t know the day before, and I grow. It is because of this that I am able to be the mom that I am. It is because I’m passionate about what I do that I have an insatiable thirst for new knowledge. I’m not perfect, I make many mistakes. But learning from my mistakes has been powerful and I have no intention of ever being perfect.

Thursday’s entry:

This morning I took some time to watch Chris Lehmann’s closing keynote. There are many favorite quotes I wrote down, but the ones that stand out the most were:

“I want 4 things for our children… I want them to grow up thoughtful, wise, passionate and kind.”

“Technology in our schools should be like oxygen: invisible, ubiquitous, and necessary.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Chris I have never met you, but I am inspired by your words. Thank you for such a powerful message, and a reminder of what our vision should be. Let’s stop talking so much about the tools, and start talking about education.

You don’t have to be in the education industry to make a difference in education. Every day people learn, and you can contribute to their learning and assist in unlocking their potential. When people are passionate about what they do, there is no stopping them.  Imagine what this world would be like if we all took on that responsibility.

If you are not sure where your passion lies, take some time to figure it out. Once you figure it out, surround yourself with those that share your passion. It will change your life.

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Why keeping your goals quiet can help achieve them

A few years ago I read the book The Alchemist by Paul Coelho. This clever novel tells the tale of Santiago, a young boy on a journey to the Egyptian Pyramids. What begins as a journey to find treasure turns into a realization of his “personal legend”. “To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation.” Coelho captured my attention and his message could not have hit closer to home as I was in Cairo for work when I finished the book (if you have read it you will appreciate the irony!).

I have always been passionate about the work I do, and after reading this book I started to reflect on what I want to achieve in life. What is my “Personal Legend”? How can I help make this world a better place? I look at two amazing role models I have lost in the past few years as a source of inspiration: my grandfathers. I was blessed to have both of them in my life for almost 30 years. They taught me a lot about love, life, work ethic and the importance of family. So here it is: my goal is to impact this world in a way that will provide a better future for my children. Because my work is specific to education and learning,  I am focused on how I can positively impact learning environments.

Over the years I have had many goals. Typically I have been open and transparent (with anyone willing to listen) with them. Like anyone else, I have achieved some and fallen short with others.  Recently I stumbled across a TED talk by Derek Sivers about goals. In less than 4 minutes Derek explains why “telling someone your goals makes them LESS likely to happen”.  About a week after watching this talk I came to the realization that, although I can share my goal of positively impacting learning environments, I’m going to keep the goals I need to achieve in order to realize my “personal legend” to myself. Since making this decision I have been more motivated and inspired than ever before to start working on my “to do” list of goals. It might be a coincidence, but I’m going to trust the brain science behind this phenomenon.

Take a second to think about a goal you want to achieve. Now lock it up, throw away the key and get to work!

Why do I run?

Today (June 1st) is National Running Day.  I happen to be in NYC for work and was able to start my day with an early morning run through the streets of NYC and Central Park. (Check that off off my bucket list!) Knowing it was National Running Day I naturally began to reflect on WHY I run. It has been a large part of my life since my freshman year of high school. Although my reasons for running have changed over the years, one thing remains the same- I don’t know what I would do without it.

The summer before my freshman year one of my best friends convinced me to attend a meeting to learn more about the cross country team. I played along and attended the meeting. The coach was nice and very knowledgeable about the sport so I gave it a try. I instantly feel in love. I ran because it was a very social sport and the boys and girls teams shared the same coach. Although I couldn’t tell you what my PR was or how many medals I received, I can tell you that I had a blast with my team members. I went running through the mud, running in the rain, running from the boys on a Saturday night after toilet-papering their houses, running through our town on a scavenger hunt and running at the state meet 3 years in a row. I ran because it was fun.

Then came college. I was no longer a 4-sport-a-year athlete, so I continued to run to try stay fit. It was a losing game.  The overall decrease in physical activity (combined with the increase of my food and liquid consumption) resulted in the “freshman 15”. But for me it was more like the freshman 20 or 25. The summer before my last semester, I received a flier for Team in Training. I wanted to revive my running routine so I attended an informational meeting. I signed up on the spot and was motivated and inspired to run for the first time since high school. My cousin Andrew lost his battle with  Leukemia at a very young age so this cause was very close to my heart. With the help of my roommates who roller-bladed along side me, I trained for the Marine Corps Marathon. I also raised money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society by organizing a car wash, writing letters to my family and friends and making funnel cakes and selling them on campus. A month before my race, 9/11 happened. I was nervous to travel to D.C. as the anthrax scare had just happened, and the Pentagon had been attacked. I couldn’t imagine not running after months and months of training and fundraising, so I went. My boyfriend at the time (now my husband) was living in Atlanta and drove to D.C. to watch me run. The morning of the race he wished me luck and I nervously walked towards the sea of runners. A few minutes before we started I met a 40-something yr. old woman and we started talking. She was from D.C. and she was telling me what life had been like since 9/11. Next thing I knew we were a few miles into the run and we were still talking. Then we ran by the Pentagon. The massive hole in the side of the building was heart-wrenching. The construction workers had stopped working and were waiving American flags as we ran by. I looked at my running buddy and she had tears in her eyes too.  We ended up running the entire marathon together and held hands as we crossed the finish line. I did it!!

After college, I moved to Atlanta to be closer to my boyfriend and found a teaching job. I contacted the local high school cross country coach to see if she needed any help. Not only did she appreciate my help, she quickly became one of my closest friends. When we weren’t coaching cross country and track together, we were finding a time to meet up and run, or get together and plan our up-coming weddings.

In 2006-2007 we moved to Chicago, bought a house, and had a kid. I ran until I was 8 months pregnant, but it wasn’t ideal. I couldn’t run as far or as fast as I wanted. After I received clearance from the doctor, I started running again. It felt so good to get back to my old routine, and it kept me sane in those early days of being a new mommy. It was MY time to think, vent to myself, clear my head, and of course lose that pesky baby weight. I ran because I could. I ran because I learned, for the first time in my life,  that I can’t take running for granted.

Since having my 2 boys, I have logged a number of miles running 5k’s, 10k’s, half marathons, 2 muddy buddy’s and 1 TRI (which I completed with my brother, cousins and uncle). This past Memorial weekend I caught wind of a local 5 and 10 k through Salute, Inc. which raises money for military families. I signed up the day before the race. On that foggy morning, hundreds of people from my local community were gathered together to run for a cause. I was a bit nervous as I hadn’t run a 10k competitively in a few years. I was unsure that I could still run at the same pace I had been able to years before. The gun went off and I weaved through the crowd towards the front of the pack. I caught up to a girl who seemed to be running a good pace. Our 2 mile split was just under 14 minutes. I knew I couldn’t keep the pace, so I backed off a bit. At mile 5 I felt a burst of energy and was able to catch her.  I finished 12th overall and 1st in my age group. I was proud of myself. After the race I found my good friend who had run the 5k, and I was blabbering about my finish. Suddenly we noticed everyone was starting to clap, yell, and crowd around the end of the course. As we walked over to see what the commotion was all about, we saw him. Retired Marine Cpl. Yuriy Zmysly, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was about to finish the 5K. With the help of his physical therapist, he stood up out of his wheelchair and walked the last 100 yards. As we cheered him on I looked at my friend (she blogged about it here) and could see the tears in her eyes matched mine. It was a moment I will never forget. (For more information on Yuiry and his inspiring story, click here.)

So why do I run? I run because I can. I run because it’s fun. I run because I want to stay fit. I run because it helps relieve stress. I run because I want to inspire my kids to be active.  But most of all, I run because (as evidenced above) it’s so much more than just running.

Why do you love running? I’d love to hear your story.